Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
July 29, 1993, Page 28
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
Index of "Good Old Days" Articles
Good Old Days
By Dee Zimmerman
Dells Dam, Pinecrest (Snyder) then Hawthorne Hills were names of the Neillsville Golf Course sites during the introduction of golf in Southern Clark County.
From the beginning, there was great enthusiasm and support by those who enjoyed the sport of golf, wanting a course near Neillsville on which to play the game.
The Snyder course was ready for play in the Spring of 1929. The members of Pinecrest course were an active group, just as they had been at the Dells Dam course holding special events on Sunday afternoons.
The first recorded hole-in-one was made by Roy Schmedel at Pinecrest on June 30, 1930. Schmedel was the superintendent of the Milk Condensery Plant. Dr. J. A. Brooks, a former Neillsville dentist, scored a hole-in-one on the eighth or ninth hole. Also, John Perkins Neillsville High School’s former Agriculture teacher tallied two hole-in-ones on the ninth hole in 1931. The ninth hole was a par 3 of 155 yards which required teeing-off over the backwaters of Wedges Creek to reach the green (or strip of land along Highway 10 across the backwaters to the site where Bill John’s home is now.)
In September that year, a 36-hole club championship match was played on a Sunday when Carl Juvrud defeated Dr. Chapfin. A large gallery of members followed the men as they played the match.
On October 19, 1933, Mr. F. J. Baer purchased 60 acres of land from Henry Markwardt for the purpose of building a golf course. (Mr. Baer sold is (his) interest in the Neillsville Press to Mr. W. Ferrand in late 1932). The closing of the land sale was completed on November 24, 1933. Part of the deed stated: “It is understood that this land will be used to build a golf course and that thereafter any land owned by Mr. Markwardt that is next to the golf course must be made available to those playing to cross over the fence line to retrieve their golf balls.” The Henry Markwardt farmstead buildings were located on the south edge of the property with only the house now remaining. The house is presently the home of Earl and Donna Smith. When Markwardt’s lived there, barn dances were held in the newly build (built) barn. It was a popular dance floor in the 20’s with good location being near the City and the highway.
A professional printer, Br. Baer came from Bavaria in 1900, arriving here shortly after. In 1903, he married Lottie Stockwell of Neillsville. Then in 1904, he purchased the Granton Newspaper which he ran as Editor and Publisher until 1921 when he became co-owner and Editor of the Neillsville Press.
Mr. Baer had to have been a man of great courage to take on building a golf course during the early 30’s, the time of the great depression and years of the drought. A great deal of work was done over the winter in preparation for the opening of Hawthorne Hills Golf Course in the summer of 1934. The greens were built with the help of John Perkins, his Ag. Class students and many local people seeding grass by hand. Water was hauled in by teams to sprinkle over the new seeding, encouraging the new seed to root. All the landscaping was done by men working with teams of horses and a slusher (a scoop pulled by a team under the direction of men).
The land, having been farm fields, needed a tremendous amount of earth moving to turn it into a golf course. All of the expense was being paid for by Mr. Baer.
The course had been dragged, seeded and all was ready in the spring of 1934, or so everyone hoped. Then, a storm came over the area that dumped 5 to 7 inches of rain in only a few hours. All of that rainfall, naturally, wiped out the new seeding, destroying most of the fairways. The gully or old Goose Creek which was between the club house and number one green became wide and deep enough to hide a car in it. All other fairways had washouts, as well, due to the loose, newly moved earth which hadn’t had time to become rooted. The land had to be repaired and reseeded after the storm. Mr. Baer announced an open house planned for August 30, 1934.
The drought caused wind erosion during the summer, again almost ruining the course, requiring it to be replanted in early August. That made three times Mr. Baer paid for reseeding.
At the August open house, visitors were shown the course with five holes being playable.
Mr. C. E. Huyssen, a Marshfield Pro, had laid out the course design and was at the site almost every day to oversee the work. Mr. Zaeske, a local insurance agent, Roy Schmedel and a crew of men furnished by him, gave of their time to move fairly large trees from the southeast corner of Oak and Second Street to the course. It was heavy, grub work, done with a team of horses and chains, loaded on wagons and transplanted on the course. Lack of rain during August, dried out the re-seeding and course was closed. Mr. Baer’s finances were drained. On July 1, 1935, the Hawthorne Hills Golf Course became the property of the Neillsville Bank who held the mortgage.
In early August 1935, Mr. Carl Juvrud, a loan officer of Neillsville Bank, went to Eau Claire where he met Art Tangen, an employee at the Hillcrest Golf Club. An offer was made to Art after he came to Neillsville and viewed the course, an offer to manage and maintain the course. In Mr. Tangen’s words after first seeing the course: “What a mess! The fairways were rough and the roughs were rougher. The greens were 6 to 8 inches high and full of swamp grass and there was nearly 1,000 yards of washout to be replaced and seeded.” With the help of W. P. A. project workers who were at Schuster Park, soil was hauled in to repair washouts. A sod cutter was found to cut and lay sod in strips which held the top soil on the fairways.
Gradually the course began to take shape. A fairway mower was purchased, so with the other mower and a tractor the course could be completely mowed in two days, making it easier to keep playable. The club house was a two-room shack set on piers. Players used bathroom facilities at the park. The public was invited to an official opening on May 12, 1936. The course became busy at once, and there were many scheduled events with other clubs in the area.
The golf course was operated by the Neillsville Bank from July 1, 1935 to June 14, 1937. The Press announced a meeting March 25, 1937, that Bill Campman was heading a group to keep the course going. The incorporation would for $10,000 (100 shares at $100.00 each). Dues were $25 for family and $10 single. On May 25, 1937, the Neillsville Country Club was again incorporated. The papers were signed by Bill Campman, George Zimmerman, Roy Schmedel and Carl Juvrud.
Bill Campman and Roy Schmedel were very actively involved in the golf courses change of ownership from Neillsville Bank to a corporation. The first stockholders meeting, was held on February 24, 1938, with Schmedel, Zaeske, Munger, Skroch and Welsh on the board.
Remodeling on the clubhouse started in 1938 by re-doing the porch and building a fireplace for outdoor grilling.
Through the years other remodeling projects and an addition were built on the club house. A new outdoor shelter with gas grills was erected near the club house this year and given to the country club to be enjoyed by golfing groups.
In 1941, an additional 4 acres of land was purchased and added to the course property. That land is occupied by the equipment sheds and a small tree nursery holding trees to be transplanted on the course.
Water was piped to all tees and greens in 1968. Three years ago, a well was drilled on the course enabling the greens and tees to be watered anytime of the day or evening.
This year, in June, after the deluge of rain, the fairway south of the women’s tee-off on Hole 4, became very wet and spongy. Eventually the water seeped through the sod and ran down the hill. Some digging by the groundskeepers, revealed no water pipes, only water oozing through the ground. In reading through the golf course’s history it was interesting to find this: “About 40 yards in front of the ladies tee-off on Hole 4, there was a very active spring that was used by the members for the best drink of water to be found anywhere.” The spring had been covered over with sod during dryer years and forgotten. This year’s rains have activated the spring once again, reminding us that it is still there, hidden under the sod.
Some of those who have managed the club house and golf course since it was re-incorporated have been Sid and Edna Tompkins, John and Edna Labor, Tim and Brenda Schmitz, Mark and Merrill Brunette and presently Dan and Linda Krehmeyer.
Through years of determination and hard work of several, a nine-hole golf course is well established adjacent to the City of Neillsville. Despite many trials in its beginning the desire to have a golf course has prevailed and is now enjoyed by many county residents as well as visitors traveling through the area. Golf is one sport that can be played from an early age through retirement age. When a golfer can’t walk the entire course, golf carts can be used to transport the golfer and his or her clubs around the fair ways enabling them to participate in the game. A sport that was played only by a few people 60 years ago has grown to be played by those of all occupations, and all ages. It is a sport that keeps on growing, but one that needs a maintained course to be played upon.
A view down number one fairway from the tee-box, as it appeared in 1967. The fairway runs parallel to the east side of Schuster Park. The tee-box has been since removed to the southeast of the old tee-off. Also, the pine tree to the right and maple tree on left were removed when the clubhouse addition was built. Trees have been transplanted on the left and right side of the fairway. Each year trees have been transplanted along the fairways. The Neillsville Elementary School is visible in the background.
(Information for this article was taken from old Press editions and a “History of Golf in Neillsville” written by John Knoff in 1987. John and Helen Knoff were residents of Neillsville for several years, leaving here last year. They and their family were avid golfers, having been Neillsville Country Club members while they lived here. Our thanks to John for sharing his writings of history)
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