Professional golfer Lee Elder has filed papers in local court saying his company, Lee Elder Enterprises, is unable to pay more than $200,000 in debts incurred while he operated Langston Golf Course in Northeast Washington.
Documents in D.C. Superior Court show that Elder's company was in debt to more than 40 firms, as well as the National Park Service and Riggs National Bank.
Lee Elder Enterprises, owned by Elder and his wife Rose, ran the public course under a leasing arrangement with the Nationl Park Service until it was closed last December. Federal authorities shut the course down after the Elders ceased to make insurance payments there, saying they had been unable to resolve contractual disputes with the Park Service.
Elder's court action, technically known as an "assignment for benefit of creditors," is similar to bankruptcy proceedings. Under the arrangement, assets of Elder's company are deeded to an attorney, who, with court approval, takes responsibility for the company's finances, supervising the liquidation of assets and payments to creditors.
The attorney is also required to examine company books and report any misappropriations.
In the court papers, signed Jan. 20 by Superior Court Judge Margaret A. Haywood, the Elders listed debts for the company of more than $200,000, and assets consisting of equipment at the course totaling about $25,000.
First in line for payment is the Internal Revenue Service, which the Elders say the company owes nearly $6,000 in taxes. The company also owes the District of Columbia government about $2,000. According to the papers, the firm owes two debts to Riggs National Bank for $39,000 and $51,000.
The action does not affect Lee Elder's personal earnings as a professional golfer, which last year totaled nearly $60,000 and so far this year are about $8,000. In fact, the Elders have listed themselves among creditors with claims against Lee Elder Enterprises, seeking $40,000 in personal funds they invested in the course and clubhouse on Benning Road NE.
Rose Elder, vice president of the company, declined to comment on the case. Carl Gulliver, an attorney with the Washington law firm assigned to oversee the liquidation, said that other than "some sloppy bookkeeping," there was no apparent reason why the Elders were unable to turn a profit at the course.
Lee Elder Enterprises operated out of a suite of offices at 17th and K streets NW. The offices are now occupied by Lee and Rose Elder Inc. and Rose Elder and Associates Inc., consulting firms owned by the Elders. Neither of those firms is affected by the court action involving Lee Elder Enterprises.
Gulliver said sports, kitchen and lawn-maintenance equipment at the course will be offered for sale at a public auction in an effort to pay some of the debts.
Park Service spokeswoman Sandra Alley, meanwhile, said federal authorities are looking for someone else to run Langston and that the course, closed since last year, could reopen within the next 30 days.
Lee Elder attained international fame in the late 1960s when he emerged as a top competitor on the professional golf circuit.
Beginning in the early 1970s, he expressed an interest in managing the Langston course. He attracted numerous other top players and entertainment figures to participate in a tournament at Langston to benefit a children's foundation run by the Elders.
Elder acquired a park concession to run the course in 1978 and made several improvements, expanding the greens, redesigning sand traps and building a bar in the clubhouse.
However, a dispute with the Park Service arose when the Elders asked to be compensated for improvements that were not part of the lease and had not been approved, Alley said.
Alley said the Elders lost the concession when they failed to make payments on a required insurance policy covering the course.