By Mark Waite
When the first nine holes of the Calvada Championship Golf Course opened in March 1978, golf pro Paul Bullock exclaimed the course, when completed, will be “one of the finest in southern Nevada, in fact one of the finest in the 11 western states.”
He predicted the course would provide a superb test of golf that would draw players from all over the area.
“This course is something I’d never dream of finding here. Calvada went all out with this course. When it’s completed, it will be a real 7,300-yard championship caliber golf course,” Bullock told the Pahrump Valley Times at the time.
The course was designed by Bill Bell of Pasadena, Calif., who designed courses as far away as Spain and Mexico. The second nine holes opened in 1979.
Green fees started at $6.50 on weekdays and $8.50 on weekends. Preferred Equities Corp. graded space at the Calvada Eye for a sales office, Pony Express Bar, Calvada Inn Restaurant and Calvada Market and Liquor store in January 1971. They planted 600 trees for the golf course, including Aleppo pines, Arizona cypress, olive and evergreen trees to set up the golf course as another marketing tool for homebuyers.
An advertisement in the Pahrump Valley Times in December 1977 said “native trees line the lush emerald fairways and shade the glass-smooth greens, no less than seven lakes reflect the crystal blue of Calvada’s skies.” When plans were announced for the golf course in November 1975, PEC President Jack Soules remarked, “with Mount Sterling in the background, it will provide one of the most scenic golf settings in southern Nevada.”
The 5,000 square-foot clubhouse opened in February 1981, a Spanish-style building with covered veranda, mission-tile roof and an interior, sunken fireplace.
Realtor Kim Washington remembers when she sold property for Calvada in the 1970s. The bridge and duck pond on the Calvada Eye was the focal point for selling lots. People bought lots for $660 down, PEC offered three days and two nights at the Grand Flamingo Casino in Las Vegas, she said.
The golf course was used to sell lots, she said a lot of people moved to Pahrump to play golf. In fact, advertisements for Pahrump property in the 1980s often touted the distance to the Calvada Championship Golf Course, even for properties a mile away.
“One of the major reasons why I decided to move here was the golf course,” Larry Goins told the Pahrump Valley Times back in 2008. Goins has been active in the Pahrump Valley Junior Golf Association and moved to Pahrump in 1985. “To be able to play golf on such a course, it was an outstanding course.”
The first year, 10,316 rounds of golf were played at Calvada Valley Championship Course, in 1981 it increased to 16,037 rounds, then 22,726 rounds in 1982 and 27,374 rounds in 1983.
The shorter, 3,500-yard executive course opened in March 1984 a short distance away on Mount Charleston Road.
PEC signed a tri-partite agreement with Utilities Inc. of Central Nevada in 2000 under which UICN could use nine ponds on the golf course to store 1.5 million gallons per day of recycled effluent from a sewer plant on the golf course to irrigate Calvada Championship Golf Course and the executive course. About that time, Las Vegas developer Al Collins was just starting the Mountain Falls development at the south end of town. The front nine of the golf course opened in July 2002, the second nine holes opened the following spring.
The glowing accounts of years past is a major contrast to the present day, where the course has been closed since October 2008, creating a major eyesore in the community. The closure was the end result of a series of events after the bankruptcy of Preferred Equities Corporation in 2002. After the PEC bankruptcy the course was renamed Willow Creek Golf Course.
Parts of the former golf course now look like desert with dust devils. Numerous trees have died. The ponds near the sewer plant are polluted.
The closure of the golf course opened up a whole can of worms.
Frank Cox, a former director of golf and general manager at Willow Creek from 2001 to 2009, blamed the decline of the golf course on two factors.
“The biggest one is Mountain Falls came and it was new, it’s probably one of the best facilities in southern Nevada. So you were competing new against old and it just was hard to compete. Some of the revenue was lost there. Then you have less money to spend on maintenance so the course isn’t in as good a condition, so more people would go to Mountain Falls. So I think it was a competitive thing and the straw that broke the camel’s back was when AMI bought it. You have people who knew how to run it, knew how to market it, to people who didn’t know what to do and were trying to find a buyer and flip it and make some money,” Cox said.
“Had AMI not bought it, I think it would still be open. We were plodding along and making enough money to pay the bills,” he said.
Cox said AMI Management was affiliated with the Southwest Exchange, which folded in 2007, causing 134 investors to lose $97 million. The company president, Donald McGhan, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 2009 for four counts of wire fraud. Some of the proceeds went to MediCor Ltd., a Las Vegas breast implant company.
“Before the FBI took any formal action they sold Willow Creek to AMI to avoid that being tied up,” Cox said. “That’s how AMI acquired it.”
At the end of the day, assets were sold to different companies so investors got some of their money back, he said.
Preferred Equities sold the golf course for $1.35 million on Jan 24, 2000 to PGC Land Co., which in turn sold it for a profit to Willow Creek Holdings LLC for $4.5 million on Sept. 24, 2004. On Feb. 12, 2009, Jorei Enterprises picked it up at a trustee sale for $5 million, there was $7.8 million in unpaid debt on the property. On Oct. 13, 2011, Jorei Enterprises LLC sold the golf course to Caldera P and G Inc. for $500,000, according to county records.
The value of golf course lots, without any improvements like a clubhouse, dropped after the course closed. The land value of one lot at 1711 S. Upland Ave. was valued at $26,731 in fiscal year 2011-12 but only $11,226 for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year. A golf course lot at 1888 S. Waterhole Canyon Ave. was valued at $51,963 in 2011-12 but only $21,826 for the coming year.
In November 2008, Nye County Commissioners rescinded a zone change and conditional use permit for a hotel, casino and remodeled clubhouse granted to AMI Management, a last-ditch effort to keep the course open. The company was lambasted for not informing the county about a foreclosure notice.
Shadow Mountain Christian Fellowship began occupying the clubhouse in July 2009. Nye County Emergency Services was asked to test the water in the nearby ponds and test results showed fecal coliform readings were off the charts.
The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection in 2009 ordered Jim Scott, owner of Ashland Capital LLC, which took title to the property through a trustee sale in December 2008, to clean up the ponds. A second trustee sale in February 2009 transferred title to Jorei Enterprises LLC, but Ashland Capital continued to manage the property.
Ashland Capital filed a lawsuit over the tripartite agreement which was eventually upheld by a senior judge in favor of UICN. Ashland Capital claimed they should pay only the cost of pumping potable water to supplement the recycled effluent, about 17 cents per 1,000 gallons, not the irrigation rate charged by UICN of 60 cents per 1,000 gallons.
There were no bidders at an auction for Willow Creek Golf Course in October 2010 with a minimum bid of $20.5 million, meant to satisfy a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit against PEM Group, parent company of Jorei Enterprises and the late Danny Pang, who died while under indictment for a Ponzi scheme. Gulf Union, of which Jim Scott was the president, secretary and treasurer, submitted a stalking horse bid which means any bidders would have had to offer 10 percent more than his offer. He offered to pay Jorei Enterprises monthly payments of $80,000.
Scott’s latest company, Caldera P and G, acquired the golf course in October 2011.
UICN made an offer to take over the golf course last October, they offered to waive the $516,162 in legal fees awarded by a senior judge in litigation with Scott. The utility company offered to remediate the ponds.
UICN said the land transfer must be free and clear of any liens or encumbrances, except for the tri-partite agreement. UICN attorney Laura Granier wrote, “UICN has never and does not now have a desire to own a golf course, much less one with the necessary remediation required at the ponds. However under the circumstances, UICN is willing to consider the possibility in the interest of its customers and the Pahrump community.”
Scott rejected the offer. He offered to grant UICN an exclusive easement to a pond near the sewer plant and two overflow ponds. In exchange he wanted UICN to pay Caldera P and G $1.5 million and asked for an irrigation rate of five cents per 1,000 gallons. Granier said that offer was “simply nonsense.”
During a debtor’s examination recently, Scott disclosed he had offers to buy the property from a partner seeking to bring foreign based capital to Willow Creek through the EB-5 program, an act passed in Congress in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment, in exchange for a green card for the investor.
Scott hit rock bottom, when he was jailed in November by Senior Judge Bob Rose for 21 days for failing to comply with a court order to maintain the ponds.
Scott’s jailing came a day after he declared bankruptcy, Joseph Atkins was appointed the trustee.