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Westwood Country Club seeks growth

Westwood Country Club in Amherst, its prime real estate mentioned as possibly for sale, will be revitalized and expanded in coming years as it tries to increase its membership, it was announced Thursday.

A private lending agreement for $2 million has been completed between the club and a group headed by local real estate developer Michael Joseph, a former president of the club, said general manager Bruce Becker.

In a statement, Joseph said: "We believe the Westwood is poised to be 'the' next club in the Western New York marketplace. Its outstanding location, great golf facilities and terrific family-oriented activities make it a great opportunity for growth."

The club occupies 172 acres along North Forest Road, between Sheridan Drive and Maple Road. Founded in 1921 as Willowdale Country Club, it has been a full-service private golf and country club since 1945.

Plans call for upgrading the club's pool and golf shop, updating the clubhouse interior and improving the dining facility.

There also will be enhancements to its 18-hole golf course, which has hosted amateur tournaments in previous years. The club is trying to attract a nationally recognized professional tour event.

Some work will be done in 2007, Becker said. "The scope of the improvements . . . wouldn't be that extensive, and the club will continue to operate during any work that will be done," he said.

Stagnant membership had posed a financial threat to the club, prompting a letter to members in June that raised the possibility of selling its valuable acreage. With the lending agreement in place, Becker said, "Now that uncertainty is behind them."

Was a sale seriously considered? "I would say it was certainly seriously considered but also, perhaps, a wake-up call the membership needed to come behind a solid business plan as they have now done," Becker said. "There were no serious offers."

Membership did not change in the most recent season, remaining at slightly less than 300, Becker said. He said he did not have information on peak membership.

Programs are in the works to increase community awareness of the club, he said. Without getting specific, Becker said Westwood's fees are comparable to those of other private clubs in the area.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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