Former school leader now runs Arkansas golf course

Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Jim Roe, left, and his business partner Jerry "Smokey" Wilkerson, right, show the expanse of their 168-acre, 18-hole golf course.

Jim Roe is a familiar name to many Barry County residents. The one-time school superintendent and coach now spends a great deal of his semi-retirement at Big Sugar Golf Course in Pea Ridge, Ark.

Before retiring in 2004, Roe, an avid golfer, was a high school coach at Pea Ridge, Southwest and East Newton as well as superintendent for Southwest and East Newton school districts. During many of these years, Roe also was a member of the Cassville Golf Club.

"I was president of the Cassville Golf Board for 10 to 12 years," Roe said.

Two years ago, Roe and business partner, retired dairy farmer Jerry "Smokey" Wilkerson, attempted to buy Big Sugar Golf Club and course when it came up for auction.

"We didn't get the bid, but the guy who bought it didn't want to run a golf course, so he asked us if we wanted to lease it," Roe said.

Roe and Wilkerson made an offer to buy the course last year, but the owner decided to lease the course to them for another year. The business partners plan to make another offer at the end of this year.

"This is a hidden gem and a unique golf course," Wilkerson said. "It's beautiful down here, and people don't know about it."

The 18-hole course is located southeast of Pea Ridge and covers 168 acres with 7.5 miles of cart trails. The golf course is unlike many courses with the Little Sugar Creek crossing through the course several times. Additionally, the course is built into the surrounding hills providing many unique layouts and contours.

"A lot of people come here to polish their skills, because they know if they can get an 85 here, they can get a 75 on another course." Roe said. "We have been told it's an 'unfriendly' golf course, because it's pretty hard."

The course starts off with its longest hole, a 612-yard par 5, followed by hole #3, which is a long par 3 at 252 yards.

According to Roe, probably the most difficult hole on the course is hole #12. The 465-yard par 4 starts with a creek running down the left side that cuts in front and to the right of the green.

Big Sugar is open every day from around 7 a.m. until dark on most days. Individual memberships that allow golfing anytime, including cart fees are $150, and the family rate is $165. Daily rates during the week are $30, and $40 on weekends. The club also offers senior and junior rates at $20 each.

"We have Super Tuesday for 18 holes for $18, that's a dollar a hole," Wilkerson said.

Big Sugar hosts a variety of tournaments throughout the year with their biggest, the Pea Ridge Classic, held in mid-June. The club's next large tournament is the Everett Maxey Tournament coming up on Sept. 27.

Despite living in Neosho, working part-time as an insurance consultant for a company in Springfield and operating a golf course in Pea Ridge, Roe manages to stay connected locally by attending First Baptist Church in Cassville. Roe remains attached to Southwest Schools with his youngest son, Rusty, slated to be the new Trojans basketball coach.

Roe explained that there are struggles with owning a golf course like keeping the revenue up and planning for chemicals for the course and cart maintenance; however, Roe doesn't let those challenges get him down.

"The best part is the people, like our staff and members who are very dedicated," Roe said. " It's a fun job to socialize and play golf with them."

Big Sugar Golf Club is located at 1101 Sugar Creek Rd. in Pea Ridge, Ark. For more information, call 479-451-9550.

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