Patrick Wilkinson, former head professional and General Manager of Black Bear Golf Club in Longs, S.C., is suing the course’s owners and operators for unpaid wages and pro shop revenue. Former Swing Thought Tour executive Ryan Waters is suing the tour’s parent company, claiming he has not been paid for work performed and the resulting commissions.
There are a pair of recently-filed lawsuits involving an area golf course and pro golf tour based on the Grand Strand, the Myrtle Beach, S.C., Sun News reported.
Patrick Wilkinson, former head professional and General Manager of Black Bear Golf Club in Longs, S.C., is suing the course’s owners and operators. Wilkinson, who is now the head pro at Diamondback Golf Course at Woodland Valley Country Club in Loris, S.C., is asking the owners and operators of Black Bear for more than $14,000, claiming he is owed for three days of past wages, pro shop merchandise and unpaid revenue from pro shop sales, the News reported.
Wilkinson’s lawsuit filed April 13 names as defendants Black Bear Global LLC—which is believed to be owned by Grand Strand resident Kang Zou and his parents, Chun Lan Li and Shi Lin Zou, who are still residents of China—and Jun “Judy” Tang, who the suit claims is an operator and has represented herself as an owner of the course. Wilkinson said he owned and operated the course’s pro shop before resigning October 23 over payroll issues and other disagreements, the News reported.
Black Bear and Tang have filed a response and countersuit through attorney Gene Connell of the Kelaher Connell & Conner law firm in Surfside Beach. “We dispute he is owed any money,” Connell said Monday. “We think he was overpaid. Our countersuit is for money we believe is owed to us by him.”
The Zou family purchased the course in May 2014 for $1.5 million and was forced to endure the expense of regrassing the greens last summer after the putting surfaces were struck by winterkill, the News reported.
In another lawsuit, former 12-year Swing Thought Tour executive Ryan Waters of Loris, S.C., is suing the tour’s parent company, its former parent company and tour president Robin Waters, who is also his older brother, the News reported.
Ryan Waters worked for the Swing Thought Tour and its predecessors for 12 years in positions including tournament director, vice president of operations and marketing director, and is suing for $9,200 claiming unpaid work performed and resulting commissions. Waters’ suit claims he should be eligible to receive $27,600 for the delay in payments and additional awards for attorney fees, costs and punitive damages for alleged fraud, the News reported.
Ryan Waters worked for the tour through name changes from the National Golf Association Hooters Tour to the NGA Tour to the now Swing Thought Tour. He claims in his filed suit that he hasn’t been fully paid for work done for four tournaments from March to May 2014, when a commission system was in place, the News reported.
Ryan Waters states in his suit that he was informed his VP position was being eliminated. In a letter included in his suit, he was offered a Regional Tournament Director position in Florida with a similar salary, and an administrative office position with a reduced salary. After being told no past commissions were due, Ryan Waters states he resigned on November 20, 2015, the News reported.
In a response and countersuit filed in April through attorney Robert Buffington of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd in Charleston, the defendants rebut that the Swing Thought purchase of NGA LLC assets did not officially take place until August 2015 so NGA LLC should be the only defendant, and Golf Interact LLC should not be a party in the suit, the News reported.
The acquisition was announced in a press release from Golf Interact LLC in September 2014, but the response filing and a letter from Robin Waters claim that a letter of intent was in place at that time but the sale did not become final until August 2015, the News reported.
The response also claims that following the four tournaments in question, Ryan Waters was informed “and understood that commissions would not be paid due to the financial condition of NGA LLC in order for NGA LLC to operate further without firing someone or reducing salaries or changing the compensation system or contractual compensation of plaintiff and others at NGA LLC.”
While Ryan Waters claims he was told commissions would eventually be paid, the response states Robin Waters “had discussions with plaintiff where it was agreed that payment and commission would be relinquished in exchange for continued compensation for services.”
Ryan Waters’ suit claims Golf Interact LLC owner Michael Rush stated in an email that Golf Interact had no record of past due commissions and they were not included in the acquisition terms between NGA LLC and Golf Interact LLC, the News reported.
The countersuit accuses Ryan Waters of sabotaging the business at about the time he resigned by changing passwords on social media accounts, changing names of accounts to “Ryan Waters Golf” and erasing data, documents and marketing efforts from a computer belonging to the defendants, the News reported.
Both Ryan Waters and Wilkinson are represented by Jarrod Ownbey of the Mullins Law Firm in North Myrtle Beach. Both cases in the court of common pleas are subject to mediation before reaching a jury trial, the News reported.