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Westwood Country Club being sold; Board is considering three offers, but a final decision is not expected for two weeks

Amherst's Westwood Country Club is being sold after 66 years in its current form, but exactly who will buy the financially ailing club is not certain.

The 13-member board of the private club is currently "vetting" three offers by outside groups to purchase the Westwood, president Barry Singer confirmed Friday.

A final decision is not expected for at least two weeks, but Singer said there's no doubt the money-losing club would be sold after years of rising deficits and declining membership.

"It is certain that it will be sold. We, as volunteers and members, can no longer sustain the financial viability of it," he said. "So unfortunately, it's time. We have to reach out and put it into someone else's hands."

He would not divulge specific details of any of the offers, citing confidentiality, but said all three groups would continue operating it as a full-service club, with its complete golf course, dining and banquet facilities. No information about possible development on the club land was available.

The bidders include Amherst Golf Partners, Paul Snyder's Snyder Corp. and Windows on the Green, which operates the restaurant at the club and is owned by manager Jon Cohen, owner of Jonny C's Catering, and chef Scott Donhauser.

Earlier this year, the club had agreed to sell 4.6 acres of its property for $1 million to developer John Yurtchuk, who in turn planned to build a 50,000-square-foot medical office building at the corner of North Forest Road and Sheridan Drive. But that plan fell through after the town of Amherst balked at rezoning the property.

In the meantime, he also stressed that the club "is open and will remain open through the decision period" for any weddings and other events that have already been booked over the next several months.

"The club will be open next year and will continue. We just don't know under what ownership it will be at this time," he said. But it "will be open in the future under someone's guidance."

The board, which has already met and begun evaluating the proposals, will meet again within the next couple of weeks to make its decision, Singer said. The winning proposal would then be put before the club's shareholders for a final vote within the next 30 to 60 days.

"The board is very confident that we have wonderful choices to choose from to make the transition very easy and smooth and positive for our members," Singer said, citing the need to preserve the "integrity of the history and tradition" of the club.

The sale would represent a major change and the end of an era for Westwood, whose roots date back to the founding of Willowdale Country Club in 1921. The current club was started in 1945 by 200 members who paid an initial initiation fee of $200 each. At the time, Westwood was one of the only golf club options for Jews, who were not admitted to some of the area's other clubs.

Both the golf course and the clubhouse actually predate the 1945 founding of Westwood, with the clubhouse built in 1928. The golf course started with just nine holes and 18 tees, with the remaining nine holes added after the Great Depression.

Since Westwood opened, the club grew and prospered for years, adding services and enhancing facilities. Today, the club offers its par-72 golf course, tennis courts, a 25-meter pool and the Windows on the Green dining and banquet facilities. The athletic facilities are still limited to members, but Windows on the Green is open to the public.

But it has struggled over the past dozen years or so from a combination of economic conditions and declining membership, as people either chose to join other clubs or simply dropped such memberships as a luxury they no longer desired or could afford.

Membership is now about 250, down from about 350 over the past 12 years. Meanwhile, its expenses have continued to rise, and its deficit steadily mount, forcing its leadership to reach out to area individuals who had expressed interest in the club in the past for various purposes.

Plans call for the club's services to be maintained regardless of the winning bidder, but Singer said the three proposals include various "solutions" on how to achieve that goal. He said each organization "has its own mission and mantra and corporate culture," and indicated that the club could remain membership-only or become semi-private, with daily golf play allowed for a fee.

Singer said Yurtchuk "as an individual" is not part of the new group of bidders.

email: jepstein@buffnews.com