San Diego

Student Athlete-Led Group Pleads for Reopening of Salt Creek Golf Course

A push to reopen a recently shuttered golf course in the South Bay was renewed Wednesday as parents, students and community members asked for a mulligan from the land's owner, the Otay Water District.

Salt Creek Golf Course’s sudden closure just a few weeks ago left hundreds of student athletes from four different high schools without a home course or practice facility.

Though the clubhouse is being demolished South Bay golfers are pleading their case to get the facility up and running again.

The course closed down simply because it wasn’t making enough money, but pro golfer Tyler Torano said it makes sense to keep the course open where he started playing at 12 years old.

“It wouldn’t be possible for me to reach my goals if not for Salt Creek,” Torano said. “This place means so much to me.”

Torano is not alone.

Student golfers, coaches, and community members showed up in force at Wednesday night's Otay Water District meeting and asked them to lease the grounds to someone who'll keep the course open.

“For the future, I was planning to work there and that didn’t work out well," Eastlake High School senior Jumpie Hanaoka said.

Hanaoka, like other student golfers hoping to play collegiately, also worries about how the closure might impact scholarship opportunities.

Meanwhile, coaches are struggling to find a place for their teams to compete.

“It was a terrible impact on our season,” Olympian High School golf coach John Devore said.

“We’re currently homeless. We have no place to practice or play regularly. We’re a traveling golf program.”

A notice on Salt Creek's website cites rising water costs and fewer golfers, and says the course has lost money since opening in 2000.

“I was pushing forward to get a contract with Salt Creek before it closed,” said Joe Pantoja, a business owner and former golf instructor at Salt Creek.

He's cobbled together some investors and has a plan to create thriving golf greens out of the rubble starting to set in.

“Our goal was to create a top-notch restaurant facility, which they don’t have there, and cater to a lot of events," Pantoja said.

The ultimate decision of what to do with this land will be up to an ad hoc committee that includes some members of the water board.

Board member Hector Gastelum said he'll try and convince others to keep it open but whatever decision is made must make financial sense for district and ratepayers.

Fellow board member Mitch Thompson said that the board made a substantial lease reduction two years ago in an effort to keep the course open. So far, it hasn't worked out.

The committee is scheduled to discuss the site’s future at a May board meeting.

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