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River Oaks has new ownership
Former Ceres High/Cal State Stanislaus star golfer Ryan Thornberry and several of his family members purchased River Oaks Golf Course this past month. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The sale of River Oaks Golf Course in Ceres was finalized on Aug. 20.

Former Ceres High/Cal State Stanislaus golf star Ryan Thornberry is one of the new owners.

"It's going to be a partnership between myself, my brother, my parents, and my aunt and uncle," said Ryan, 31. "We have nothing but good intentions. It's going to remain a golf course. It's been a staple in our community for years."

Thornberry, brother Nick of Waterford, parents Ken and Pam (Hickman), and uncle Robert and aunt Gloria Hall (Ceres) all have a passion for golf.

They've all spent a considerable amount of time at River Oaks over the years.

"We went to the Ceres City Council to let them know that our main goal is to resurrect that place," Ryan said. "Everybody's excited about us getting it."

Jim and Carol Phipps developed River Oaks Golf Course in 1979.

Sons Mike and Rob both managed the course before passing away in March 2015 and December 2007, respectively.

"We're good friends with the Phipps family," Ryan Thornberry said. "We have a great relationship with them. They've treated me unbelievably well. I don't know what our individual roles are going to be. We all bring a different skillset to the table. We're all going to be out there a lot. It's going to be fun transforming that place back to the dream the original owners (Jim and Carol) had for it. It's going to take a lot of TLC. We already got ideas in the works. We're going to put River Oaks back on the map."

Thornberry, who joined the professional ranks in 2007, had surgery on his right shoulder in July.

Ryan's been sidelined with a right wrist injury since last fall.

"I have a tear in my wrist," said Thornberry, who experienced a major breakthrough in 2013 when he earned conditional status on the Tour through Q-School. "This surgery would be major. I haven't decided what I'm going to do as far as playing."

A golf standout for most of his life, Ryan learned how to play the sport at River Oaks.

Thornberry became one of the owners of the Ceres golf course last month.

"It's a little surreal," he said. "When I was a kid, I never imagined I'd be a future owner of River Oaks. It's pretty cool. I'm going to give other people the same benefits I had. I get to stay in an industry I love."

Ryan was a four-time, All-American at Cal State Stanislaus. He won seven NCAA events, including the NCAA Division-II West Regional.

Thornberry, a 2002 Ceres High graduate, helped lead the Bulldogs varsity boys golf team to a perfect 18-0 record in the Central California Conference regular-season standings during his senior year. Ryan was named the CCC's Most Valuable Player three times. He placed first twice at the conference championships. Thornberry averaged 1.5 strokes under par on the season.

Open to all golfers, River Oaks will offer a free clinic this Saturday. Thornberry and veteran teaching pro Greg Silva will provide instruction from, 3-4:30 p.m.