Persimmon Country Club, the only private golf course east of Interstate 205, has been sold to a new owner, American Golf Corp. The sale was official as of Aug. 1.

Though ownership of the course is switching hands, the change is not drastic, as American Golf has been leasing the country club from owner, Itoham Foods, since it signed a 15-year lease agreement in 1999. The decision to sell the course to American Golf comes after Itoham Foods' owner and co-founder of the course, Kenichi Ito, died in February.

'I think selling the golf course to American Golf is the best decision because they have done a good job,' said Hiroshi Morihara, the club's other founder. 'It is a big company and they own or lease a collective of courses in the U.S.A., so they know what they are doing and they are respected. So it's a good company to work with.'

American Golf owns 96 courses in the U.S., including three Oregon locations in West Linn, Banks and Corvallis.

Troutdale businessman Junki Yoshida originated the idea for the course in 1988, and Ito and Morihara, who were friends and golf buddies, opened the first nine holes in 1993.

'One day in 1992 (Ito and I) finished playing golf in Japan and we were drinking sake and we said, 'Wouldn't it be nice to own your own golf course?' ' Morihara said. 'So I said, 'OK, I'll look for a perfect site.' '

Morihara managed the course until May 1999, when he and Ito signed the lease with American Golf, and Itoham Foods became the sole owner of the course. Morihara then became the owner of the 210-unit upscale housing development surrounding three sides of the course. He still owns land fit to build about 140 new homes.

The club includes a golf course and practice area, restaurant and banquet facility, clubhouse, pool and tennis courts, which will be in American Golf's full control. The housing development, however, will not be affected by the new ownership.

The club went fully private in 2006, when it reached 500 members. It now has 302 members. In an effort to boost membership, the club is offering reduced monthly dues. Full membership has dropped $53 to $260 a month and limited membership has dropped $34 to $180. The club also is waiving the $200 application fee to Oregon Golf Association members through Sept. 5.

Aside from this membership discount, which has happened at the club before, Morihara said he does not see American Golf making any drastic or immediate changes to the country club.

Though he calls himself the 'worst golfer in the world' and said American Golf is a more qualified owner of the course, Morihara said he's glad to have been involved.

'Building the golf course had nothing to do with making money. It was a crazy idea to begin with,' Morihara said. 'I'm very glad we did. Because of the golf course, Gresham's image has improved. And it's a beautiful place.'

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