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Crystal Lake Golf Club sold at auction

The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. — PeterFrancis The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Jan. 12--HAVERHILL -- Crystal Lake Golf Club has a new owner.

The 18-hole, 137-acre North Broadway course was sold at a foreclosure auction for $960,000 Thursday morning to Sterling Golf Management Inc., a Newton-based company which manages eight other courses in Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire.

The auction was held on the grounds of the course, which has been the epicenter of a lawsuit between the city of Haverhill and the course's previous owner, Michael Maroney, who bought the property in 2010 for $3.7 million.

Kevin Osgood, Sterling Golf's president, was on hand to bid for the course, which auctioneer Paul McInnis said after the auction was valued at around $1 million. The entire auction lasted for roughly 15 minutes and the bidding for the course started with Osgood making an initial offer of $600,000.

Osgood was one of only two individuals who bid on the property and the course's equipment, which his company also purchased for $100,000.

Of the roughly 50 people on hand to witness the auction, only eight had filed the necessary paperwork to bid for the course. Asked if he was surprised when only two people engaged in a bidding war for the property, McInnis said bidders will come in with a maximum bid they're willing to go for and sometimes the bidding eclipses their maximum before they have a chance to put their card up.

The auction was held outside a temporary trailer which had been set up near the course clubhouse, and several of the people in attendance were men who had bought memberships in the club for the year. They had questions about whether the club's new owner would honor their memberships -- or if the property would remain a golf course.

Crystal Lake member Dan Tuccolo said he forked over $2,000 for his membership.

"Now they're going to sell it. I don't know what the outcome will be," he said.

Another course member, Ed Bonenfant of Haverhill, said he knew of about 25 people who had purchased memberships for the coming year. Haverhill golfer Buster Distefano said he had been a member of Crystal Lake for several years and that the course is in the "best shape its been in in two or three years."

Those in attendance Thursday included longtime Crystal Lake members and residents of some of the homes on the property.

After winning the auction, Osgood said his company's main focus will be on course conditions and customer satisfaction.

"We'll be making a lot of overall improvements," said Osgood of the course, the clubhouse and its equipment building. While signing documents finalizing the purchase, Osgood said his company's goal is to "take care of the club's members."

"We don't want to start off on the wrong foot," he said.

Some course employees were also on hand to meet the course's new owner.

"I shook his hand and asked him not to forget who I am," said greenskeeper Leroy Hines. "It's a beautiful course, best course around. It's like a country club."

Maroney, city still fighting in court

While Crystal Lake may now be under new ownership, its previous owner has not given up his aforementioned legal battles with City Hall.

Michael Maroney, the owner of Maroney Construction, has been locked in three lawsuits with the city in various courts.

According to the Massachusetts Trial Court website, two superior court suits involving Maroney and the city -- one filed as a plaintiff, another as an interested party -- are both listed as open.

A final pretrial conference for both cases is scheduled for Jan. 23, according to the state website.

Maroney's superior court lawsuit claims the city Planning Board violated an agreement with him involving the construction of a water booster station for a subdivision he was building near the golf course.

That 13-acre subdivision was slated for 50 homes on a private road off of North Broadway, and 29 of those homes were built and sold, the last of which being sold in 2015.

Lowell Five Bank eventually foreclosed on the rest of the subdivision in September, said Maroney.

Maroney had already once staved off an auction of the golf club property by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2016.

Last May, Maroney said he was working with Pentucket Bank on restructuring his financing for the golf course. Maroney said Thursday that he and Pentucket Bank had worked out a full repayment plan for the course and that Sterling Golf had attempted to buy the course during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Maroney was not at the auction Thursday.

Maroney said he believes the auctioning of the course will help his case against the city in court.

Follow Peter Francis on Twitter @PeterMFrancis

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