Golf Course Management

AUG 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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Page 38 of 107

While some thrive, others fight to stay relevant — or stay open. Palmer Park Golf Course in Detroit, where legendary heavyweight boxer Joe Louis played, recently closed. On the flip side, city-owned Braemar Golf Course in Edina, Minn., was re - built and reopened May 18, 2018. "It poured, but we still had 150 people come out," Braemar general manager Joe Abood says. "We don't have open tee times right now. ere's a resurgence. e course has been a staple of the community." Municipal golf courses are etched in the game's roots. ey serve as community cornerstones, incubators for learning the game — which also has seen a boost in play. e NGF reports that for the first time in 14 years, the number of golfers in the U.S. age 6 and older who played at least one round in 2018 in - creased to 24.2 million, up from 23.8 million in 2017. e report also noted that the number of beginning golfers, 2.6 million, is near a historical high. "Our first goal is, we're growing the game to enable you to go to the country club if you want to. But we hope you stay here," says Class A superintendent Darin Pearson, park operations manager at Eagle Bend Golf Course & Learning Center in Lawrence, Kan., and a 25-year GCSAA member. Major golf champion Fred Couples developed his game at mu - nicipal Jefferson Park Golf Course in Seattle. Municipal courses also host majors, such as in 2020, when the PGA Champion - ship goes to TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Golf Channel personality Matt Ginella touts municipal courses, which serve as hangouts for him. "Municipal golf … this, to me, is the most interesting conversation in the world of golf right now," says Gi - nella, who adores his nine-hole course in Winter Park, Fla. "If I 08.19 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 35 First, but not the last Baseball greats Willie Mays and Babe Ruth played there. So did Academy Award-winning actor Sidney Poitier. We're not sure they took the subway to get there, but this northwest Bronx, N.Y., legend is thought to be the first destination of its kind. According to its website, Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course in New York City "made history as the nation's first munici- pal golf course when it opened in 1895." Known by locals as "Vannie," Van Cortlandt Park GC is a key attraction at Van Cortlandt Park, which includes Van Cortlandt Lake, a museum, a nature center, sports fields, a multiuse stadium and stables and, at one time, featured three ski slopes on the back nine. Scottish-born architect Tom Bendelow redesigned, con- structed (adding nine holes to make it a total of 18) and helped maintain Van Cortlandt Park GC in the late 1890s, and architect Stephen Kay led a modern-day renovation. Thirteen years ago, Westchester Metropolitan Golf Asso- ciation Player of the Year Andrew Giuliani, son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, called Van Cortlandt his home course, and he went on to play at Duke University. Today, Van Cortlandt Park GC remains relevant — a testament to its importance and longevity among the annals of American municipal golf courses, which, according to the National Golf Foundation, are at an all-time high in number of facilities. "We average about 45,000 rounds a year," Van Cortlandt Park GC general manager Chris Ryan says. "Our importance? It means we are the first course open to the public that people could come and play." Jim Buonaiuto worked at Van Cortlandt Park GC from 2004 to 2008. He still plays there occasionally and credits superintendent Peter DiRollo and his crew for the job they do at a spot Buonaiuto says represents the spirit of municipal golf. "Golf at first was not public. At Van Cortlandt, you have blue-collar workers, executives and people who came as kids to play for the first time," says Buonaiuto, general manager at Rye (N.Y.) Golf Club. "It's the melting pot of golf." — H.R.

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