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Foreclosure filed, debts mounting for Poplar Golf Course

Poplar Golf Course has fallen on hard times.

A bank is seeking foreclosure on the property. More than $80,000 in back taxes are owed to local, state and federal agencies. More than $150,000 in debts to suppliers and business associates are listed in personal bankruptcy proceedings.

But there is a plan.

"We are looking for solutions to a complex problem that developed after we all took on an ambitious business expansion that ran far over budget," Michael Lattery, one of the course's six owners, said in a written statement. "Fortunately, most of the owners have the desire to help, and one owner is in a position to implement a solution that he has laid out. We need time to reorganize and follow through with this solution."

The 18-hole course at 9548 E. Golf Course Road southeast of Superior also includes a campground and the Tin Cup Pub, which opened in 2015 after a clubhouse expansion that Lattery says is at the heart of the course's financial woes.

Whether the course and the Tin Cup Pub open next year could depend on the success of that reorganization. Specifics are scant, and the owner taking the lead on the way forward did not wish to be named, but Lattery expressed optimism nonetheless.

"It is our hope and plan that Poplar Golf will be in a strong financial position very soon."

In October National Bank of Commerce filed for foreclosure after Poplar Golf Course defaulted on $162,504 owed on mortgages, according to court documents filed in Douglas County Circuit Court.

Lattery, who owns an 8 percent stake in the course, told the News Tribune that direct discussions with the bank are ongoing. Also listed on the foreclosure filing are Timothy Steffan and Candace Simmons of Superior and Susan Patch, the majority owner of the course, for whom no address was given.

Patch could not be reached for comment.

In November Lattery filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, and filings in United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Wisconsin show extensive debts tied to Poplar Golf Course.

Among the creditors listed are Patch, who is owed $100,000 on a personal loan; Scott Simmons, who lent $10,000 to the golf course; and Pamela Hegstrom, who is owed $17,500 on a personal loan.

"It's unbelievable, for one. It's overly dramatic, for two. And it's a shame. We put a lot of money in that golf course," said Hegstrom, who formerly managed the Tin Cup Pub there. "I'll be out a substantial amount of money."

Bankruptcy documents also show $25,000 is owed to the Internal Revenue Service and $20,000 to the state of Wisconsin for "business tax debt." Filings in Douglas County Circuit Court also show the golf course is behind on more than $20,000 in unemployment taxes, and the Town of Poplar in September gave public notice it was owed $15,563 in 2014 taxes.

"Chapter 13 bankruptcy was filed as a means to reorganize after going 'all-in' last winter to keep the business open," Lattery's statement read, adding he and his wife spent and borrowed a great deal to keep the course open in 2017 to honor gift cards and memberships. "We have not sold memberships or held any gift card sales for 2018 and do not intend to until a long-term solution is agreed to."

Lattery is the director of business finance at the Entrepreneur Fund, a regional startup financing group and business consultancy. He has held shares in the Poplar Golf Course since 2009, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Brooks Johnson

Brooks is an investigative/enterprise reporter and business columnist at the Duluth News Tribune.

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