published Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Sale to Henry Luken relieves Valleybrook members

A sign announcing the auction of the Valleybrook Golf and Country Club is seen in this file photo.
A sign announcing the auction of the Valleybrook Golf and Country Club is seen in this file photo.
Photo by C. B. Schmelter.
Valleybrook Golf and Country Club sold to Henry Luken
After family struggles over the future of the course, the owners of Valleybrook Golf and Country Club chose to auction the 137-acre property in Hixson on Thursday. Chattanooga businessman Henry Luken won the auction with a $950,000 bid. Luken said he will remodel the clubhouse and keep the development operating as a golf course, rather than establish it as a new subdivision.

The golf will go on.

And the next tournament is Saturday.

Valleybrook Golf and Country Club will remain a golf course and soon become a private club again after Henry Luken bought it at an auction Thursday for $950,000.

"The most important thing is that it's going to remain a golf course," club champion Gary Baker said while sitting with friends on patio furniture a few minutes before the table and chairs were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The fear of many club members and area residents was that a real estate developer would win the bid and build housing on the grounds where a PGA Tour event once resided and World Golf Hall of Famer Payne Stewart finished runner-up.

It almost happened.

Paul Teruya of GreenTech Homes owned a bid of $925,000. During the 25-minute auction of the course, Luken topped him. Employees of Potts Brothers Land and Auction tried to get Teruya to bid again.

He didn't.

"I think we're all pleased with Mr. Luken buying the course," said Valleybrook clubhouse manager Derek Walker. "I believe the membership feels good about it, because they think the right person bought the course."

In a confident step toward purchasing the property and its structures, Luken called a meeting with the club membership last Tuesday and outlined some of the plans he had for the property if he were to win the auction.

The membership seemed to be receptive then and relieved Thursday after Luken -- who also owns the Montlake, Battlefield and Eagle Bluff courses -- won the bid for the course and other bids for items in the clubhouse and maintenance barn.

"If he will do what he's said he will do, then we are hopeful that Valleybrook will be what it has been or even better," said club parliamentarian Janie Cummings. "Henry is truly interested in leaving it as a golf course.

"He said that he would restore the pool and he would take care of the tennis court that is not being used."

Luken said Thursday that he will improve the clubhouse: "It's a fine steel building. It's just dated. It needs a new facade."

Luken said he will improve the course: "I have greens guys who will work with these people here. David Drake was doing a good job to maintain the course."

The course will get a test Saturday during the annual Jackie Davidson charity tournament that contributes a University of Tennessee scholarship to a Hixson High School student.

"We plan on having the tournament just like we always have," Walker said. "We may not have tables and chairs, but we'll still have a great golf course and do everything we can."

But the Red Bud Invitational, which once was the most popular tournament in the city, again is in jeopardy for this year. It is slated for Sept. 7-8, but Walker would like to call a timeout and consult with Chattanooga TPC series director Mike Jenkins.

"I would love for the Red Bud to still be held," Walker said. "But I think the best thing is to push it back and make sure we're 100 percent squared away. Mike will have some insight, and I'll defer to him on those kinds of decisions."

Most importantly to the membership: Luken bought a golf course -- not a real-estate development.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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