At their July 15 meeting with the Rye Golf Club Commission, a number of club members, and some commissioners, voiced their concern about receiving dues compensation for not being able to use any of the regulation greens this summer.
By Tom McDermott
At their July 15 meeting with the Rye Golf Club Commission, a number of club members, and some commissioners, voiced their concern about receiving dues compensation for not being able to use any of the regulation greens this summer. At stake, according to General Manager Jim Buonaiuto, is $2.864 million in total annual dues paid.
Although members were aware of the club’s, and the City’s no-refund policy, which is prominently displayed twice on the annual application, emotions were running high that members were consumers who had not gotten the product they had ordered.
The reason for the greens’ closing was extreme damage in the spring as a result of using a fungicide, ALT70, which its maker, Tessendero Kerley Inc. (TKI) now admits was tainted with an herbicide. The club created temporary greens, so that some play could continue, but members at the meeting did not consider that to be sufficient for the full dues that they paid. As many as 18 east coast courses suffered similar damage from ALT70.
Fast forward to the August 12 Golf Commission hearing at which City Councilman Terry McCartney, City Corporation Counsel Kristen Wilson, and new City Manager Marcus Serrano joined the commission for the discussion.
RGC Superintendant Chip Lafferty gave a mostly positive report about the steady improvement of the greens, aeration, and continued need to not have foot traffic. But, it did not take long for longtime member Gary Ahlert to ask Lafferty why he used a new, untested product in the first place. A discussion of whether or not ALT70 was a new product or another name for an old one ensued. All of this prompted a reminder from McCartney that the City is in settlement discussions with TKI’s insurance company AIG, and that “the more we talk about what we did right or wrong” the more damaging it could be it could to a settlement. This theme arose several times throughout the meeting. Member Andrew Papataros also questioned whether it was legal to have sold the product in New York.
As for the City’s position on refunds, Sculti mentioned the no-refund policy, but said that the City had shared its settlement claim with the Commission, in confidence, and that the City had put together a “really good claim.”
McCartney promised at one point that, should TKI pay, he would be the biggest advocate for discounts, asking for member patience. Serrano lauded all the efforts so far and was hopeful that TKI wanted to protect their reputation in the golf industry. Wilson said that she could not share details but that the claim was detailed and “comprehensive.”
But some members were still not satisfied with this approach, or waiting for an offer and a City Council decision – five members of the Council are RGC members – on whether to accept it, without knowing what it is, and what the possibilities were for member compensation despite the no-refund policy. “The city could take the money and refuse to pay,” claimed one member. Another wondered, “Why not have a plan in place, ‘XYZ,’ distribution to members?”
Rob Muncie wanted to know how much the City had asked for in its claim, and wondered why TKI should settle for $3 million if they could cite the refund clause. Wilson said she could not share that information, since it might affect future litigation.
When asked this week if the voices heard at the meetings fairly reflected the feelings of the membership at large, Sculti told the paper, “I think so. You have a faction that wants to get money back, and you have some others who want to get the course opened and move on.”