A Rhode Island company has bought the exclusive Pete Dye Golf Club in Harrison County.

Textron Financial Corp. bid $7 million for the club at an auction on the Harrison courthouse steps Wednesday.

The company beat out two local bidders — former state senator Mike Ross and business partner Ike Morris. Ross runs an oil and gas company. The two wouldn’t go higher than $6.8 million.

Rachel Sockut, a spokeswoman for Textron, would confirm only that the company had a representative at the auction.

“Prior to the auction itself, we were already involved in discussions with the previous club ownership,” Sockut said. “The completion of this proceeding facilitates our administration of the property moving forward.”

Sockut declined to say what the company plans to do with the golf course, which was opened on a reclaimed strip mine in 1995 by coal operator James LaRosa.

The Clarksburg Exponent Telegram had a reporter at the auction who gathered the details of the sale.

LaRosa didn’t return a telephone calls from the Daily Mail. Ross couldn’t immediately be reached. Contact information for Morris could not immediately be found.

Ross told the Clarksburg newspaper: “We would have liked to keep the ownership local ... We just hope that the right people have it now and are going to do the right thing with it.”

LaRosa notified members of the club last month that Textron was taking over, according to news reports. The company had sent in representatives of the Davis Love Golf Management company in the interim.

In a letter to members, LaRosa blamed an economic downturn as the reason for the sale.

A representative of the management company didn’t return a telephone call from the Daily Mail.

Textron provides financial assistance to entities looking to open or upgrade golf courses, among other ventures. The company is a subsidiary of Textron, Inc.

Other subsidiaries of the company include Bell Helicopter, Cessna Aircraft Company and the manufacturer of E-Z-GO golf carts.

Since 2004, the course has been home to the Pete Dye West Virginia Classic golf tournament.

This year, the club played host to the Nationwide Tour Players Cup. The Nationwide Tour features players who are working to get on — or back on — the PGA Tour.

This is the second time the LaRosa family has sold the club, which is located right outside Bridgeport.

The first time was in 1999 when the LaRosa family sold to Golf Trust of America for $10 million.

Golf Trust sold the club back to the family two years later for $15.8 million.

Ross, then a Democratic state senator from Randolph County, and Morris loaned the LaRosa family $7.69 million towards the purchase. They were given about 150 acres of land adjacent to the club as collateral.

Ross then found himself in hot water with the state Ethics Commission for voting in favor of a bill during the 2004 regular legislative session that gave $750,000 in state money to the golf club for the first Pete Dye Classic tournament. The money was meant to help promote the event and fund the purse.

The West Virginia Citizen Action Group filed a complaint against Ross a month after the vote, saying he deceived other members of the Legislature who may not have known he had a financial interest in the club.

In return for the loan, Ross and Morris were able to golf, eat and drink any time they wanted at the club. Ross also got eight free memberships worth a total of about $120,000.

The commission argued that Ross stood to benefit financially from the legislative act; specifically, that the tournament would increase the value of the acreage he got as collateral. But Ross said it was the state that benefited, not him.

A hearing examiner later found that Ross did not violate state ethics laws and that the commission’s arguments were speculative.

On the recommendation of the hearing examiner, the commission dismissed the complaint.

Amid the scandal, Ross lost to Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, in the 2004 general election. He is challenging Barnes to regain the Senate seat in the November general election.

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