Derrick Bernosky tees off while golfing at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono in this 2017 photo. The new owners have made an estimated $100,000 in improvements since buying it last year. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

The new owners of the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono continue to make improvements to the course as the 2018 golf season gets underway.

The course has been open for two weeks and the full 18 holes are in play with riding carts available.

Kevin McCarthy is the new majority owner after purchasing it from Harris Golf Inc. His management company, Resurrection Golf, is operating PVCC and handling the upgrades.

“First and foremost are the fairways,” said Mark Hall, who is the golf pro at PVCC after serving as the assistant pro for three years. “They had been very bumpy. So we are rototilling them and rolling them and we’ve also seeded them.”

Hall speculated that the new ownership group has spent approximately $100,000 on improvements so far.

He said they’re planting bent grass, “which is what all the top golf courses use.” He also said they will also be applying chemicals and fertilizer soon to address a grub problem.

“The grubs eat the roots and the skunks and the birds dig out the grubs,” said Hall. “The grubs are about ready to have babies so it’s time to kill them.”

He also said a lack of water hurt the fairways and that weeds grew in as a result. Last year, PVCC wasn’t able to water the course at times due to issues with the water pump and electrical problems. Hall said the course drains exceptionally well and is capable of handling a lot of water.

“People are going to have to put up with it (the work) for a month. But everyone will be very happy a month from now,” Hall said.

PVCC also is adding some new tee boxes and expanding others since some of them had become weed-infested, again due to the lack of water.

“We also want to give the players more options and it reduces the wear and tear on the course (and tee boxes),” Hall said.

“The members are very excited. They are seeing the gradual improvement. The arrow is going up. And that’s real nice for us, too,” he added.

There will also be new electric golf carts equipped with phone chargers and a number of special activities such as a wine tasting, live music and a night golf tournament featuring glow balls and glow sticks.

“It will probably be a par-3 tournament. Night tournaments are very popular,” said Hall.

Harris Golf Inc. bought the course in 2007. However, it had failed to pay property taxes since 2015 and owed more than $225,000 when it was purchased by McCarthy last September. The town of Orono had placed a lien on the property.

Due to Harris Golf Inc.’s financial constraints, the condition of the 18-hole course, which was designed by Donald Ross in 1924, steadily deteriorated.

“There was a gradual decline. (Harris Golf Inc.) didn’t have the resources to keep the course in top-notch shape,” Hall said. “(McCarthy) will do whatever it takes to bring the course back.”

He said the greens remained in decent shape and will be in tip-top shape in a month.

They currently have 269 members — that’s compared to nearly 400 members seven years ago — but Hall said they have been averaging “two new members every day.” He said a lot of the new members were club members 10 years ago who left and have returned.

Hall explained that whenever there is new ownership, golfers want to get a feel for what changes will be made before they decide to become members.

Hall also pointed out that “a lot of the snowbirds haven’t come back yet.”

Members will receive top priority.

“We’re going to really try hard to serve our members. We want them to feel special,” Hall said.

A membership will cost $895 but there are a number of discounts available.

Members will also be able to play the other three Resurrection Golf-run courses: The 18-hole Bath Golf Club in Bath and Old Marsh Country Club in Wells and the nine-hole Highland Green Golf Club in Topsham.

Members will also get preferential tee times on weekends and discounts on food and on pro shop merchandise, he said.

With Hall being elevated to the position of head golf pro, Brian Lawton has become his assistant pro.

Bangor native Lawton was the golf sales manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Bangor and was formerly the pro at Felt Brook Golf Center (now Traditions) in Holden.

“He’s like a brother to me. We’ve always been a great team. I’m very excited,” said Hall.

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