Big Sugar Sale Finalized for $660,000

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 197 views 

Big Sugar Golf Club in Pea Ridge will officially re-open for business Saturday, almost four months since the property was sold at auction.

Big Sugar Enterprises LLC, led by Dr. Larry H. Johnson, paid $660,000 for the title on the 162-acre property.

Johnson was a practicing anesthesiologist in Jonesboro before retiring in November. He did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The property was sold at auction Nov. 10, directed by two United Country real estate franchisees — United Country – Market Station Real Estate & Auctioneers in Bryant and United Country – Brad Wooley Auctioneers in Little Rock.

Johnson’s winning bid purchased the golf course — with Bermuda tee boxes, Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens — a 1,200-SF pro shop called “The Turn” and all the accompanying maintenance equipment and utility vehicles.

A listing in mid-2011 of the property on the website had an asking price of $2 million.

In a 2010 website listing by Coldwell Banker Commercial Benchmark, the property’s price “was $9,975,000 now $5,875,000.”

The 7,227-yard layout opened in May 2002.

Despite an assurance by one of the auctioneer groups, the sale was not free and clear of encumbrances, which caused numerous delays in making the transaction final.

Other problems that involved boundary lines that were out of alignment made the process drag.

Johnson is leasing the golf course, just south of Pea Ridge on Arkansas Highway 94, to a separate investor group that also made a bid on Nov. 10.

Jim Roe and Jerry Wilkerson, both with local ties, have entered into a leasing agreement with Johnson to operate the golf course.

Wilkerson is a member at the club and is a lifelong Pea Ridge resident. Roe, who lives in Neosho, Mo., ended a 32-year career in public education when he retired as superintendent of the East Newton (Mo.) School District in 2003.

He coached basketball in the Pea Ridge School District from 1974-1984.

The two men made a bid of $400,000 at the auction.

“If the title had been free and clear at that time, we would have gone higher,” Roe said. “That was just a safer bid to stop at $400,000.”

Roe said he stopped Johnson on the sidewalk near the clubhouse following the auction to make an introduction and ask what the doctor’s plans were for the golf course.

A leasing agreement was reached in the following weeks to make Roe and Wilkerson the on-site management team. It’s an annual agreement with monthly payments, Roe said, but he did not disclose details.

The former owner, Sugar Creek LLC, is comprised of several investors including Leroy Schuetts, Rich Hopkins and Ken Winter.

They had the golf course on the market for several years, trying to distance themselves from the property.

“According to the budgets we were presented with, they lost a lot of money the last five years,” Roe said. “Our goals are pretty modest. We want get back to even this first year and then go from there.”

Ahead of Saturday’s official re-opening, Roe and Wilkerson opened the course up for play Thursday. The current membership is about 35.  Roe hopes to grow the number to anywhere from 100 to 130 members.

“This is going to be a members’ course,” Wilkerson said. “We’ve had a lot of help from our members getting ready to re-open.”

The golf course will employ eight people, Roe said. He is currently looking for a superintendent and a golf course manager. The pro shop manager is Josh Dunlap.