LINN — No property has yet changed hands, but if the Osage Country Club Association votes so next month, State Technical College expects it would manage and operate the Osage Country Club in Linn after the college's foundation takes ownership of it.
State Tech President Shawn Strong said Thursday the country club contacted State Tech in September about the proposal.
"Our commercial turf and grounds program will play an integral role in updating the course, making improvements to the course, and we'll also hire a full-time superintendent," Strong said.
As of Thursday, the country club had a job posting for a superintendent — someone qualified to "oversee all aspects of the golf course operations and maintenance," including maintaining the irrigation system; grooming sand traps; mowing, aerating and applying chemicals to the greens; and maintaining the golf carts and their paths.
Strong said the course has been operating on part-time and volunteer help.
Craig Russell, president of the country club, said "the declining membership is what's hurting us the most."
Russell said the club has 85-90 members, but a superintendent can't be paid as well as when membership was much bigger in the 1990s.
He credited Dan Campbell's efforts as the last superintendent but said Campbell had to quit after being stretched too thin, with Campbell also being a teacher and coach at Helias Catholic High School.
"Could we continue? Yes," Russell said, but the country club wouldn't be able to make improvements.
Russell said he wants to enjoy playing golf with friends without having to continue putting 20 or more unpaid hours a week into trying to help the club succeed.
The club owes $215,000 to Mid America Bank, but Strong said the bank — after speaking with State Tech — has agreed to forgive that debt, without expecting anything in return.
Russell said loans have been used to buy pieces of equipment, make payroll, and last year, to pay for a well pump that went out and needed to be fixed.
Steve Brune, senior vice president at Mid America's Linn branch, said, "We were happy to make that contribution" of forgiving the club's debt.
He added, "It was kind of a way out for the golf course. The school obviously can run it cheaper than anybody else, plus get a bigger benefit for the college's academic programs."
He added rather than let the club come to its demise, this was the only alternative; the bank would not be interested in running a golf course and would just liquidate the land — in the worst case scenario, turning it into farm land.
The club will only change hands to the Foundation for State Technical College of Missouri if the country club association votes to dissolve itself at its annual meeting March 8, Strong said.
He did not yet know whether the college would lease the club from the foundation after that or if it would be some other arrangement.
As for what State Tech would do with a nine-hole golf course, Strong said, the plan is to move the college's commercial turf and grounds management program there, which would require building a new shop and some classrooms.
The program, which has about 50 students, is housed in a 5,000-square-foot building that would likely be converted into a maintenance or central receiving building for the campus, which the college does not have currently, Strong said.
He added it would probably cost several hundred thousand dollars to make the move to the golf course.
Strong said the college is also looking at options to make the golf course an extension of its Activity Center.
The Activity Center on campus currently includes three basketball courts, an indoor track, fitness center, game center, pool tables and indoor archery range.
Outside of Linn, the next closest golf courses are in Jefferson City, Owensville and Eugene.
"I think all around it's a win-win situation for everybody" that will benefit current and new members, Russell said of the proposed deal with State Tech.