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Saturday, March 23, 2013
Dozens of local kids and parents are in line for a little extra traveling in a couple of months, due to North Augusta Country Club's status as a work in progress.
The YMCA of Aiken County facility, in Graniteville, is to be the new home of the Dolphins, formerly known as the country club's swim team.
The Dolphins' former home base is off limits, while country club owner Donnie Thompson awaits a buyer with an acceptable offer for the 172-acre facility on Gregory Lake Road.
Thompson, an Augusta businessman who bought the country club in July 2012, confirmed last week that he is still looking for a buyer. In the meantime, the entire facility is stagnant, including not only the pool but also the golf course, driving range and tennis facilities.
Tina Nordeen, the swim team's president, helped spearhead the effort to find a new home for the swim team. Practices are to begin May 13, she said, noting that 55 former country club swimmers have expressed an interest in the team.
"This move is a blessing in disguise as the facility is phenomenal," Nordeen said. "It will be a win-win for not only the Dolphin swim team because we needed a place to swim, but also our team will fill a void of a competitive swim team in the Graniteville area. It's only a 22-minute drive from my house. The Y pool and the team I am anticipating on having this summer are worth a little bit of a drive."
As for the country club, Thompson said, "I'm not renovating it. The guys that were supposed to put a deal together never did. I was just a property buyer."
Thompson, who owns Windsor Jewelers, confirmed that "the offer's out there," if a buyer steps forward. "I don't know that anything will happen. It will just stay closed unless somebody comes up with a deal, but I'll be open for a deal with a good business plan."
He also addressed his experience so far in running the site, which is astride the Aiken-Edgefield county line.
"I kind of fixed everything that was broken over there and did a lot of improvements, but it still takes somebody that wants to run a golf course, and that's not me."
In the meantime, the facility is entirely unused.
"We're just mowing the grass and making it look good," Thompson said.
"I like the property," he said. "I think it's one of the prettiest pieces of property in North Augusta."
The country club has undergone several major changes in recent years, including a fire that leveled the clubhouse in April 2007, immediately after its purchase by Fred Layman. In September 2011, Layman was sentenced to 16 months in a federal prison, after pleading guilty to charges of mortgage fraud relating to his purchase of the country club.
Want to swim?
Registration for the new swim team will be conducted April 21 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Family Y, in North Hills Shopping Center, on Martintown Road; and April 28 at April 28 at the Aiken County Family Y in Graniteville, on Trolley Line Road, a few blocks from USC Aiken, also from 2 to 4 p.m. Grant Smith is returning as the Dolphins' head coach. The cost is $75 per child, and team members must have a Y membership.