This Land Reflects a Love Story on Many Levels.
PERSIMMON RIDGE GOLF CLUB WAS BUILT FOR THE LOVE OF GOLF
Persimmon Ridge was founded in 1988 as the culmination of a dream of Elmore Just and Jack Ridge to build a golfer’s golf course. Arthur Hills was hired to lay out 18 holes of championship golf over 206 acres. Once the design was completed, Randy Heckenkemper, a golf course community land planner, was brought in to lay out the home sites that surround the course and expand across the remaining 550+ acres. Construction began in January, 1988 and seeding was underway in September of that same year. The same year, Jack sold his share in the course to Elmore, to pursue other interests.
Persimmon Ridge Golf Course opened for play on June 16th, 1989 to rave reviews from the members, guests and media. It proved to be everything Elmore had hoped for. The golf holes laid effortlessly into the land, as if they were always meant to be there. Art even commented on opening day “When you see a stretch of land like this, you gotta believe God meant for man to play golf.”
In 1990, its first full year of operation, Persimmon Ridge was a nominee for best new course in the country, and finished 6th out of 51 nominees! It hosted the Kentucky Open that year and was considered one of the most challenging courses the participants had ever played. The first section of home sites also were built and offered for sale in 1990.
LOVE FOR THE LAND REMAINS STRONG DURING A CHALLENGING—AND HEARTBREAKING—TIME
The course and home site sales were going great through 1990, but the demise of savings and loans in the late ‘80’s early ‘90’s gave reason for the construction lender to refuse to renew the loan on the course in the fall of ‘90, stating they were “getting out of land development loans.” This created a situation for Elmore and Lawren Just that was a true challenge. They were told by the bank to sell the 550+ acres to pay off the course and allow a “true and experienced home site developer” to develop the land. Then the course would be owned free and clear. Efforts were made to bring in investors into the project, but people were nervous about the actions of the banks at the time and concerned about investing in such a new venture. So the Justs talked with two different land developers about the surrounding property and were told by both the master plan was “all wrong”. If these developers bought the land, they would revise the land plan, create more—but smaller—lots to increase their return on investment. And they’d pull the lots closer to the course to create a subdivision course. It was not what was envisioned or intended for Persimmon Ridge Golf Club. The Justs then made the difficult decision to sell the course and keep the surrounding land, which would allow them to develop it in the manner they wanted to protect the quality and integrity of the great design Arthur Hills had created. The course was sold in March of 1991 to an investor out of Connecticut. It would be one of the saddest days for years to come for the Justs.
NEW “OWNERS” OF THE GOLF COURSE—A 5-YEAR NIGHTMARE FOR THE JUSTS
The next year was full of turmoil as the new owner refused to make the payments to the Justs as called for in the sale documents. Despite the efforts to resolve the issue, litigation ensued. Despite the efforts of the courts and attorneys, the investor refused to make payment and the litigation continued for 5 years.
Suddenly the staff at the course learned the course had been sold to a real estate investment trust. The new management company had no idea they had purchased a course that was in litigation with its developer and neighbor! The Justs let the litigation die with the sale, happy the new owners were willing to work with them to continue to make Persimmon Ridge the quality golf experience it was intended to be.
THE JUSTS HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REPURCHASE THEIR BELOVED COURSE
After two years of managing the course, the company notified the Justs they were liquidating all their golf assets, and asked if they would like to repurchase the course. Fortunately, the residential development had been successful to the point that the Justs were able to negotiate a price and once again own the course.
The sale to buy back the golf course finalized on February 15th, 2001.
The two months following the re-purchase were great for the Just family—and the members of Persimmon Ridge Golf Club, as once again Elmore’s love of the land and the course was obvious to all the members. Trees were pruned and planted personally by Elmore, who enjoyed tending to the trees on the course as much as he loved to play the course! The staff was thrilled to have private ownership on site again, and many improvements were begun on the course.
ONLY NINE WEEKS LATER, LAWREN, THEIR FAMILY, AND PERSIMMON RIDGE, SUFFERS AN UNIMAGINABLE LOSS
On a Sunday morning, April 22nd, 2001, Elmore planted 30 black walnut saplings that were part of a 500 sapling shipment that had arrived. He would finish in time for a tee time in the early afternoon to play golf with three of his employees from Louisville Golf. While playing the back nine, Elmore recognized he was having difficulty keeping up walking with his playing partners. As he finished the 18, he became sick and went to the house. Lawren drove him to the hospital and told the ER folks her husband was having a heart attack. They got him out of the car and took him in.
Elmore was taken in to surgery a few hours later, and never regained consciousness after the operation. He died at 1:15 on April 23rd, 2001, 9 weeks after re-purchasing his beloved Persimmon Ridge Golf Course. Lawren created a cemetery by the 7th hole where he was buried. Members still place their ball on his grave when they birdie the 7th hole as a tribute to the man with the vision to build such a great course.
LAWREN PERSEVERED TO CONTINUE THE DREAM, AND TODAY IS PASSIONATE ABOUT HELPING OTHERS BUILD THEIR DREAMS IN PERSIMMON RIDGE
Lawren Just continued with the operations of the golf course and residential development. Over the course of years since 2001, the 765-acre piece of property has grown to 371 home sites, with a few more still to develop! Amenities were added for the residents, including the pool, tennis courts and playground. She sold the golf course in 2014 to a golf professional with whom she had been consulting with since Elmore’s death.
Lawren lives in Persimmon Ridge and continues to oversee the operations of the Persimmon Ridge development and the real estate side of the business, and plans to have every lot developed by 2020.
Her next goal is to retire and enjoy their 15 grandchildren, play more golf, and enjoy all that Persimmon Ridge, a place that reflects her passion, commitment, and love, has to offer.