If you get hurt in a golf cart accident at Harvest Hill Golf Course in Orchard Park, don’t expect an easy fight if you try to sue the course’s new owner for liability.
Ross M. Cellino Jr., one of the area’s foremost personal-injury lawyers, has purchased the 18-hole public golf course and recreation facility from the Harvest Hill Foundation, formerly known as the West Seneca Rotary Foundation.
Cellino, acting through 3052 Transit Road LLC, paid $941,390 for the 248-acre golf course, designed and created out of farmland by Michael J. Hurdzan, a renowned golf course architect and expert on related environmental issues, who has written a 400-page book on the subject.
The daily-fee course, which has been described as one of Buffalo’s best public golf courses, features rolling bent-grass fairways, natural wetlands, woodlands, bunkers, lakes and greens. It has hosted such tournaments as the New York State Golf Association Mid-Am Qualifier, the Western New York Public Links and the 2011 Western New York Professional Golfers’ Association Section Championship.
Besides the championship-level, 7,010-yard course itself, the property, which includes a 4,549-square-foot clubhouse building, also features a learning center with a short-game facility, an 8-acre driving range and a three-hole family course to let players practice their game and hone their skills. And it hosts a local chapter of the First Tee Program, a national educational, developmental and recreational initiative for young people.
Rates range from $29 to $59 during the regular season for the 18-hole course, depending on the day of the week and time of day; from $29 to $54 during the fall season; and $5 to $12 for the family three-hole course, depending on whether it’s a weekday or weekend and whether a cart is used.
Cellino, partner at Cellino & Barnes, one of the area’s most prominent personal-injury law firms, did not respond to a request to comment.
Patrick J. Sgroi, president of the Harvest Hill Foundation, said Cellino plans generally to keep the name, maintain it as a public golf course and allow the First Tee program to continue operating from Harvest Hill, under the umbrella of the foundation. “From the foundation’s standpoint, we feel like he was the best fit,” Sgroi said. “He’s a great guy, and he’s very excited about the project.”
The course opened in July 2007 on land that had initially been donated in 1997 by former Southgate Plaza owner Carl J. Lambein and his wife, Marion Prosser Lambein, to the West Seneca Rotary for the purpose of creating a public recreational facility and golf course for the community. Under the direction of West Seneca financial planner H. Joseph Sgroi, Patrick’s father, and other trustees, the foundation secured 140 more acres to achieve Lambein’s goal and started the First Tee chapter.
Patrick Sgroi said that the foundation hadn’t originally intended to find a buyer but that the economic climate changed the circumstances.
“It was just time,” said Sgroi, who also is president of Sgroi Financial in West Seneca. “It was time for us to move on, and we had a great situation with Mr. Cellino.”