'White Knight' Saves Windsong Farm GC from Bank Takeover

Windsong Farm Golf Club in Independence, Minn., has been bought by a Fargo, N.D., businessman. The private course was about to be taken over by the bank that had given it a loan when David Meyer, founder and CEO of Titan Machinery Inc., a billion-dollar farm and construction equipment dealer, purchased it on January 17.

Members hailed the ownership change. "It's a wonderful mulligan," club member Mark Lewis told reporter Jennifer Bjorhus of the Twin Cities' Star-Tribune. Another member, Phillip Ebner of Edina, called Meyer "a white knight . . . If you could have drawn up a perfect buyer, it would have been this guy."

Windsong Farm debuted in 2003; Minnesota native Tom Lehman, the only golfer in history to earn Player of the Year honors on the Nationwide, PGA and Champions tours, handled some of the design of the well-regarded course that hosted the 2008 MGA State Amateur Championship, 2010 Big Ten Men's Golf Championship, and 2011 USGA Women's Mid-Amateur Championship Sectional Qualifying.

The club opened with $70,000 initiation fees but the facility in western Hennepin County wasn't able to sustain its original high-end business model. In mid-December, it had 130 equity members and 100 golfing members who don't hold stock.

The bank, Commerce Bank in Geneva, Minn., owed $4.2 million for the loan, was in the process of taking over management of the club before Meyer stepped up to the plate.

Meyer said he didn't know about the course's dire straits until his sister called him in December and told him it was in trouble. Meyer belongs to a few courses in the Fargo area and two of his sons are serious golfers. But he's never played the course he just bought. "I don't play a lot now," he told Bjorhus. "I spend most of my time working."

Meyer intends to keep the club private; the initiation fee is now $15,000 and the annual dues are $7,600.

Club general manager Jim Kidd said Windsong Farm has a staff of about 60 at the peak of the golf season. With the new owner, Kidd hopes most members will return and the club will draw new members.

"I think he's going to put some money into it," Kidd told Bjorhus (for her full story, visit http://www.startribune.com/local/west/137802868.html). "It's a great thing for the local economy out there."

Lehman, his brother Jim and the late Glenn Rehbein of Glenn Rehbein Cos. in Blaine, Minn., developed the course. The members bought the club from Rehbein Cos. in 2009, which was part of the original agreement according to Minneapolis attorney Reed Mackenzie, one of Windsong Farm's 10 founding members and a former president of the United States Golf Association.

But because of the overbuilding of golf courses, the dot-com crash, 9/11, the housing downturn and subsequent recession, the club had difficulties pretty much from Day 1. But that spotty past, along with the threat of possible closure, will change thanks to its new owner.