Council talks Quarry Golf lawsuit in closed session

In its 21 years, no one ever accused Quarry Golf Course of being an Augusta play-alike. Unfortunately the Masters never came calling to consider a change in venue from Georgia to Brooksville.

Now defunct since a late 2014 squabble between the operator and the city, the ignominy of going to the dogs, and/or to the discs, may be the final step for this once-entertaining golf course in the rolling hills and woods of Hernando County.

Originally a limestone quarry before being renovated as a picturesque, nine-hole,1264 yards, par 29, small but challenging golf course in 1996, the arguments now are not over a lie in the fairway or a foot wedgy but over settlement negotiations and attorneys' fees behind closed doors.

City Council met in an executive session Tuesday afternoon attempting to work out an agreement on current litigation and on a settlement for the attorneys' fees for the former Quarry Golf Course in Brooksville.

The quarry is now home to a disc golf course- Photo by Alice Mary Herden

Any official city council decision to abandon the property as a golf course or to re-establish the public golf course or any other action depends on the outcome of the city's lawsuit against the ex-owner/operator who has been evicted and sued by the city for not adhering to the terms of his 2011 lease contract with the city. Bob Carson, the golf pro and manager who leased the golf course from the city, was evicted in fall, 2014. Carson, claiming he did not violate terms of the lease, counter sued the city, maintaining his lease was "terminated for no reason."

Prior to the executive session this week, Brooksville Parks and Recreation Director Mike Walker said city council has requested him to develop a master plan for the future of the Quarry after a series of meetings with the Parks and Rec advisory board and the public. Walker said one workshop has been held, "but no recommendation has surfaced for the city to continue to operate the defunct links as a golf course."

He said suggestions so far have ranged from converting it into a disc or frisbee course and even adding a dog park. Walker expects the advisory board will develop a master plan to present to city council sometime in early 2018.

In the meantime, city attorneys and Carson's attorney, Robert Bruce Snow of Brooksville, are negotiating a possible settlement which stems from the city eviction of Carson in fall, 2014. The city charged that Carson sold the golf course without notifying the city as well as eight other lease violations. Carson, now manager of the Ridge Manor golf course, said at the time that there was no transfer of the lease, merely an agreement to sell the corporation that was running the golf course. He told media after the eviction, "I'm going after the city big time."

Carson also complicated matters in dealings with two prospective buyers, but neither deal was ever finalized. The first of these arrangements was with Paul Moger, a former British golf pro residing in Orlando. Moger handed over a $20,000 down payment in June, 2014 to Carson for the Quarry Golf Course. Moger, conducting further due diligence, got cold feet and asked Carson to return the $20,000 which Moger thought was escrow money. Carson told Moger “he had spent the $20,000 and that it was not a deposit but a forfeitable down payment.” Carson then found another "buyer" a few weeks later in former Lutz golf pro Dan Leihgeber. Leihgeber had hopes of making a go of the Quarry, but the reality of throwing away his $12,500 down payment to Carson hit him like a number one driver upside the head in October 2014 when he realized the lack of golfing customers. Leihgeber later told media later that the Quarry, for him, "is a major headache, actually a nightmare."

In addition to the civil actions between the city and Carson, Brooksville police chief George Turner, acting on complaints from Moger and Leihgeber, investigated possible criminal charges against Carson "for selling to multiple people and for selling something he did not own."

"We did not arrest anyone or charge anyone," Turner said this week. "We turned it over to the state prosecutor's office. They told us it should not be handled as a criminal case but as a civil case," said the chief.

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