The Golf Club at Vistoso has suspended a member for making critical comments about the course to the Arizona Daily Star.
Member Frank McIntyre called the course in Oro Valley a "goat ranch," to describe what he saw as its deteriorating condition. He said the course hadn't been fertilized and was "burning up" due to lack of water before the monsoon rains hit.
On Sept. 29, three days after he spoke with the paper and the day his comments appeared in the Star, McIntyre got a certified letter from golf club officials suspending his membership of seven years.
Club officials, who said McIntyre breached the club's bylaws, will determine by Nov. 1 whether to terminate his $4,200 annual membership, the letter said.
McIntyre was one of several members of Vistoso and three other Tucson-area golf courses owned by San Diego-based IRI Golf Group LLC to criticize the company in interviews. Two employees of the Vistoso course also told the Star that they hadn't been paid at least once recently.
The Sept. 27 letter to McIntyre from Debbie Pedersen, vice president of the Vistoso course and IRI, cited provisions giving the course operator the "absolute right and power" to reprimand, suspend or expel members who commit any of several prohibited acts. They include "any conduct prejudicial to the best interests of either the club or operator," and committing an act "which operator deems to be against the best interest of the club or operator." The letter was written after the Star asked IRI Chairman Jeff Silverstein for a response to McIntyre's comments.
McIntyre said last week that he was planning to quit his membership on Jan. 1 anyway, "because I was fed up with what happened here." He said he had never seen the bylaws when he signed up for his membership, and that if he is kicked out of the club, he will try to collect one-fourth of his annual dues.
"I'm upset about what's going on out there, but I'm delighted they've been exposed for what they are," said McIntyre.
Silverstein, in an interview with the Star on Sept. 26, had declined to respond to what he called McIntyre's "ludicrous" statements.
He said the company is spending "thousands" to get ready for winter visitors. Vistoso will continue to be one of the top two or three courses in the city, he said.
He also noted that his company bought Vistoso out of foreclosure two years ago and "since then, it's been profitable every year and the number of rounds are up and the number of tournament rounds are up."
Last week, asked about the letter to McIntyre, Silverstein repeated Pedersen's assertion that McIntyre had violated the club's bylaws but didn't elaborate.
Another Vistoso club member, Dana Sylvester, said she didn't think it was fair for the club to suspend someone "for speaking the truth."
"He's not abusing his membership in any way," Sylvester said. Sylvester, a member since 1996, said the Vistoso course is not well maintained, has long grasses, isn't mowed and has dry and dead areas. She said she hasn't played at Vistoso for six months due to its condition.
The Tucson Water utility and the Green Valley Domestic Water Irrigation District have said that IRI owes them $218,000 and $90,000, respectively, to restore water service to the Arizona National Course in the Catalina Foothills and two others in Green Valley, which had been disconnected due to unpaid water bills.
The Green Valley courses were closed until their takeover last week by a partnership of developer David Williamson and restaurateur Bob McMahon. Arizona National closed last Monday for overseeding for winter grasses, although it's supposed to reopen Oct. 15.
Contact reporter Tony Davis at email@example.com or 806-7746.