Playing a nine-hole golf course today is an atypical pleasure. Last month I drove to the Meadowlark Country Club in Melrose, one of the few nine-hole courses that characterize Stearns County’s golfing landscape.
Having grown up in Freeport and graduating from Melrose High School in 1961, this course is very popular because of its well-known founders and the fact that my father bought me a share of Meadowlark for $ 150 in 1963.
The course was pioneered in the early 1960s under the direction of Hank Loxtercamp, Dr. Larry Tavis, Nick Braegelmann, Don Stalboerger, Bill, Don and Mark Meyer and many others whose names are engraved on a marble plaque in the clubhouse.
Other doers and doers were spearheaded by a few Melrose coaches and an administrator, including Superintendent John T. Provinzino (who signed my share of the shares), my basketball coach Otto Schaefer, my soccer coach Omer Sieben, and the social studies teacher who challenged me to golf in ninth grade, Don Layton.
As the club matured, members such as Al Kociemba and his sons Ernie and John served on the board and contributed to the club’s early improvements.
Lee Moening was a longtime president and board member whose contributions were the extension of the eighth green and the berm-like elevation to the second green that defines the opening.
Mark Traeger is the current CEO, who has been on the board for more than 20 years; He drives many golf course improvements, organizes many tournaments, and his business acumen is critical to running a non-profit golf course.
How did the course get its name? Whether this story is true or false, during the construction a group of volunteers worked one evening and someone suggested the course must have a name. One volunteer looked up and might see a meadow lark perched on a post, hence the name of the course. To the best of our knowledge, nobody has seen a meadow lark on the route since then.
When the course opened on the first day on June 17, 1965, I played it. The course has changed a lot since it opened. The original layout was par 35, but peat problems south of the drainage ditch of hole 1 forced it to be redesigned to par 36, the rotation that still exists today.
For me, the best hole on the course is the 488 yard par five eight. I enjoy playing par 5s that require a risk and if they are successfully achieved a reward is given. Ponds on either side of the large, undulating green protect the narrow access. A long drive down the fairway and a great second shot should result in a birdie or better.
Today this nifty niche space fits perfectly into the town of Melrose (3,656 inhabitants). What is most visible and noticeable in the square is how the flowers are cared for to enhance and enhance the visual beauty of the square.
Responsible for this is Laverne “Luz” Jung, the 96-year-old “flower lady” who has been caring for and cultivating the flowers for more than 30 years with the help of her capable helpers – Char Westendorf and Carol Klaphake.
Together with Luz, the members I interviewed enthusiastically praised the work of course instructor Dustin Wessel. He learned everything there was to know from Tom Spaeth, who died a few years ago and was a course instructor for 30 years.
According to Dr. Russ Sieben, a classmate and retired dentist from Melrose, Wessel is a dedicated greenkeeper who works overtime to keep the place in meticulous condition. These efforts were evident as he and his staff had the course in excellent condition despite the summer drought.
If a reader wants to play a decent nine-hole course this fall, check out the Meadowlark Country Club in Melrose. The phone number is 320-256-4989 and more information is available at wieselarkcountryclub.com.
And remember what Walter Hagen (1892-1969), eleven-time major golf champion and first athlete to become a millionaire, said in a 1956 biographical book entitled “The Walter Hagen Story”: “You are only for a quick visit here. Do not rush. Do not worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way. ”
Meadowlark will be hosting its annual four-person scramble this Saturday. The entry fee is USD 60 per player, which does not include the shopping cart. The event begins with a shotgun launch at 9 a.m. The event is limited to the first 18 teams. Gross and net prices to the two best teams. Call the club at 320-256-4989.
Meadowlark has 239 memberships (including family, husband and wife, single and student) for a total of 357 members. The oldest male member is Donny Moore, who is 96 years old. He often plays nine holes and still walks and pulls his cart, which shows that golf is a sport for longevity.
Jim Ploof, a retired middle school art teacher for 34 years, Dutch boys and girls golf coach from 1977-85 and de facto club historian, won a Section 8 Boy Championship, which qualifies his team as prosecutors for the first time 1983.
The first golfer from Melrose who managed to achieve a single course was Carlos Lieser, who qualified in 1967 and finished 35th. The last two state entrants were John Brang and Nate Loxtercamp in 2018. Loxtercamp, a college student at Saint John’s University, played for the Johnnies in the NCAA Division III Championship last spring.
The club manager is Jonathan Nietfield, who has been with the club since high school and has been general manager since 2009. He was inducted into the Meadowlark Hall of Fame this summer. Nietfield is a high school social worker and his mother Mary plays at the clubhouse during the spring and fall when their son is in the classroom.
Here are the Meadowlark Country Club champion golfers for 2021: Craig Meyer, Men’s Championship Flight; Stacey Austing-Jacobson, women’s championship flight; Pat Schad, Senior Flight; Nicholas Olberding, President’s Flight; Roger Majeski, first flight; Pat Athman, Second Flight; Jerome Duevel, third flight.
Such is the opinion of The Times golf columnist John Lieser. Contact him at Jgl1943@gmail.com.