WORCESTER, Mass – When Jay Kunkel was tailgating before the Patriots’ 10-3 victory over the Jets at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 20, he knew his good friend, Michael O’Brien, was also at the game so he texted him to join him.
O’Brien then informed Kunkel that he had agreed to buy Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton and asked if he wanted to become co-owner. Kunkel jumped at the chance.
“I appreciated Mike inviting me,” Kunkel said. “He had the deal all done and he invited me along for the ride.”
The purchase of the historic golf club from the Magill family was finalized on Dec. 28 for what O’Brien said was $4.1 million.
“I felt there was a good opportunity to improve what has been such a well known, historically famous course,” O’Brien said.
Pleasant Valley, fondly known as PV, became nationally known for hosting 32 PGA Tour events and 13 LPGA Tour events, the last of which was an LPGA Tour event in 1999. Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Kathy Whitworth played there. PV hosted seven LPGA Championships from 1967-74. Whitworth, who died on Dec. 24 at age 83, won LPGA Championships at PV in 1967 and 1971 and she also won the 1966 Lady Carling Open and the 1969 Patty Berg Classic at PV.
O’Brien and Kunkel tried to purchase PV twice before. They were outbid by John Magill Sr. during a foreclosure auction at PV in 2010.
In March of 2020, they came close to purchasing the club from the Magill family, but decided against it because of the pandemic. Then they finally bought it last month.
“We were honored that the Magills wanted to sell it to us,” O’Brien said. “We felt that was a privilege as well. I love a lot of things about history, including the history of golf at that course and we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure it’s not forgotten there.”
The new owners said they plan to keep the club private, but the restaurant will be open to everyone and the banquet hall will be available to the public for weddings and functions.
O’Brien founded his commercial real estate business, Galaxy Development LLC of Webster, more than 35 years ago. His company has developed many sites in Worcester County, including the Trolley Yard in Worcester and the Pleasant Valley Crossing plaza on Route 146 in Sutton near PV.
“Galaxy has a history of acquiring assets with the intent of making improvements that will add value,” O’Brien wrote in an email to members in December, “and we felt PVCC was a perfect fit for this.”
PV is his first golf course, however. O’Brien said he doesn’t golf very often, but Kunkel is an accomplished golfer who was a member at PV for 15 years before joining Quinnatisset CC in Thompson, Conn., in 2018. Kunkel won the PV Invitational four times with Dale Smith and three times with Dan Teguis.
O’Brien and Kunkel have been friends for quite awhile and used to coach Little League together in their hometown of Webster.
“I think it’s going to be a great partnership,” Kunkel said. “Mike knows the business aspect and I know the golf course aspect so we’ll learn from each other.”
Kunkel still knows a lot of the PV members and many texted him congratulations on buying the club. Kunkel plans to resume playing at PV.
John Magill Sr., who belonged to Pleasant Valley for two decades before he built and opened Highfields Golf and Country Club in Grafton in 2002, purchased PV from Bank of New England at a foreclosure auction at the club in November of 2010 for $5 million. Magill died in 2012 and his son, Jay Magill, and his daughter, Beth Shropshire, oversaw PV and Highfields. The Magills renovated PV’s 30,000-square foot clubhouse, spruced up the golf course and upgraded the sewer system.
“We consider it an honor to have been the caretakers of Pleasant Valley over the last 12 years,” the Magills wrote members in an email last month. “We feel that we have significantly contributed to Pleasant Valley’s revival and that Galaxy Development will continue to make the club and the course one that you are proud of.”
The Bank of New England, based in Salem, N.H., foreclosed on PV after owner Edward J. “Ted” Mingolla could not repay a loan of nearly $6 million. Mingolla had worked at PV since his father, Cosmo E. “Cuz” Mingolla, opened the club on the site of a former apple orchard in 1961. Mingolla took over as owner and operator after his father’s death in 1979.
Planned clubhouse improvements at PV include installing a new double oven and replacing the rugs and light fixtures. The new owners also want to provide more water sources for the grounds crew to avoid running out like the club did last season.
The new owners plan to keep PV’s entire staff, including general manager Eileen Aviza, head pro Paul Parajeckas and superintendent Nate Henry.
Parajeckas grew to know Kunkel when he was a member at PV.
“It’s great to have an owner who plays golf a lot,” Parajeckas said. “He knows the history of it and he wants to continue to improve it. I’m excited to be part of the staff to keep it going.”
Parajeckas usually heads to Florida in January, but he’s remaining in the area to help the new owners.
Aviza said she’s thrilled with the vision of the new owners and she thanked the Magills for all they did for PV.
“I can’t say enough about the Magills,” she said. “They put their heart and soul into the club.”
On the web: PleasantValleyCC.com