The Civic Leaders of Chicago Heights Illinois -including- the park district board, which oversees the (2) park
district golf courses contained within their boundaries, (both) mirror the citizens of this fine community. A
group of hard-working people who look back with great pride on their past -and- look forward to a bright future
– full of possibilities – for this historic place.
Chicago Heights, IL – A Brief History
This long-time home to the Pottawatomi Indians saw its first white settlers with the establishment of a homestead by a Mr. Absolem Wells and his family in approximately 1833. The area – then known as “Thorn Grove” – was a land of rich soil and abundant wildlife. By the 1850’s, more (mostly German) settlers were attracted to the area and began developing a centralized community, which they renamed “Bloom.”
Moving forward – with the introduction of several railroad lines passing through town (1890’s). A group of real estate promoters – calling themselves the “Chicago Heights Land Association” – began to attract industrial development to this “Boomtown” (and) requested & received a name change -to- the “Village of Chicago Heights.”
In 1892, this association was headed by Mr. Charles Wacker (of Wacker Drive fame in Chicago) – and with his help, approx: (20) large factories & other supporting businesses sprung up throughout the area. With an amazing (38!) railroads now serving the area, Chicago Heights became one of the largest & most productive shipping distribution points in all of the United States.
The city incorporated in 1901 & by 1910, the population grew to a whopping total of over 14,000 citizens. In 1916, the city held a dedication ceremony to celebrate the (now very busy) intersection of the Lincoln & Dixie Highways, which ran through town – and the town “Boosters” proclaimed Chicago Heights “The Crossroads of the Nation.”
The depression years were tough on the city as it was in most all of our country – but with the diverse groupings of businesses & heavy industry, Chicago Heights survived – and with the advent of World War II and the post-war years, full-time employment was once again available throughout the community.
While the economic downturn of the late 20th Century affected large steel producing & servicing facilities throughout the area, Chicago Heights adjusted with the creation of a more light industry & service-related business model – and once again, it showed its ability to attract new & varied businesses to the area.
Today’s Chicago Heights is an (approx. 30,000 +) multi-ethnic & multi-racial melting pot of diverse citizens. With over (30) churches, (50) industry-based businesses in town, an aggressive group of community leaders – including (and lead by) Mayor David Gonzalez; a town with many large & varied parks – run professionally by Park Superintendent Frank Perez -(and the park board)- and overseen by park board President Belinda Mosby; is home to great restaurants, a variety of educational opportunities, comfortable suburban homes (and) of course! to some great golf!
The Grand “Old” Course
The Chicago Heights Park District Golf Course that we now refer to as the “West” course was originally opened for play in 1912! – and for (90+) years was known as the “Chicago Heights Country Club.” The Chicago Heights Park District purchased the course in the year 2000, and has done a great job of running the course, and keeping this community “gem” alive & well. This (9) hole course (built on approximately (55) acres) was expertly designed by famed golf course architect Tom Bendelow, (a man credited with the design/built out of over 600! golf courses during his long career) is a course with lots of “character” (and) is as relevant to our game today as it was over (100) years ago!
One of the oldest golf courses in the country – and now a historic landmark – this grand course is beautifully conditioned (and) is wonderfully maintained by Greenskeeper Jose Ayala – who also oversees the “East” course (more on that later).
Playing a round of golf here is like taking a step back in time – with its peaceful, park-like setting, its tight approaches to its small ancient greens, the rolling fairways and cleverly placed landing areas & bunkering, are all reminiscent of an age of golf long past. The tree-lined fairways of this par (36) hole course – measuring from 2,800 – 3,100 yds – are full of subtleties and slight bends on the dog-leg holes, with just enough “moguls” to make life interesting. A creek crosses your path on several of the holes, and one of the most “unique” features you will ever see on any course awaits you upon your arrival to the first green – a “bending tree?!”
What is a “bending tree” you ask? I don’t blame you – it is not something we are lucky enough to see very often – let me explain. Indian tribes used to tie down young emerging trees at various points as they grew – creating a horizontal growth to the tree – and pointing to one of various landmarks that they deemed important – burial grounds, sources of water, long used trails, etc. Over time these fully mature trees can measure (50) feet (or more) along the intended line – and in the case here at this wonderful course, the tree runs horizontally for probably (25) feet or more with a diameter at the mid-point of approx. (15-20) inches. Many opinions vary on this particular bending tree – but most likely the tree is pointing along the old Sauk Trail. *Another reason to venture out to this fine course! Take the kids & show them a bending tree!
Back to golf – this “west” course is very “walker” friendly, has a fine poa/bent blend, the rough is tightly mowed allowing for ease in locating those errant tee shots + assisting with pace of play; the creek & natural undulations allow for great drainage, and overall the course is a challenging, fun place to enjoy a round of golf – not too overpowering for higher Handicap players or those new to the game – but not a pushover at all for the better player.
And More – West
The course has a nice putting green & (100) yd. practice area, rental clubs are available, the carts (with covers) are in great shape, the course is well-marked for yardages, the (3) sets of tees let you vary your distance on each hole, pull carts are available, the course offers an incredibly inexpensive rate schedule – with senior & junior rates as well; resident rates (and) an annual pass (allowing play on both courses) are available, and although the course is home to many leagues & holds a number of outings, it is usually not overly crowded during the week.
The Clubhouse – West
Once home to an upstairs hotel – for those venturing out from the city years ago – the clubhouse at the “Old” course is a comfortable building – housing a golf shop, a full bar & golfer’s grill room – serving excellent sandwiches for under $5!, an adjacent banquet room (capable of holding up to (120) guests) – perfect for any outing, meeting, or special occasion; a large outdoor porch area overlooks the 9th green and 1st tee. And thanks to the great Chief Cook (Newfy Gomez) – a full menu is available from (7-11) & special “surprises,” and fish fry’s are on the menu every Friday!
The “East” Course
I could just as easily have written an entire column on the excellence you will find at the “East” course – that is also owned and operated by the Chicago Heights Park District. This course was opened in (1991) and was specifically built to service the community (and non-residents) – before the “West” course was purchased (in 2000). This (9) hole par (34) or (36) – depending on which set of tees you use & is a closely updated version of the grand old “West” Course.
The excellent design of golf course architect Ken Killian – the course has perfectly conditioned greens and fairways, beautiful ponds that come into play on several holes, and is also a very peaceful park-like facility in which to enjoy a round of golf. All the qualities and amenities you find in its western counterpart are also visible here at this facility – with a golfer’s grill & (75) person banquet room, a comfortable outdoor patio area, and a full kitchen offering great food. And during Halloween, the course turns into a “Haunted Trails” theme park – with (700+) people showing up to be frightened & entertained – check it out the October!
I’ve Run Out Of Space!
But I need to mention a little more. Both of these golf courses serve the community very well – an understatement! And the civic leaders who made all this happen should be commended highly. But with the little room I have left, I just have to mention some of the staff who keep these facilities operating so wonderfully on a daily basis – starting with my new friend Mr. John Stanfa – who is the General Manager (for 7 years) for both golf facilities, a lifelong resident of Chicago Heights and a gentleman who (along with his brothers + uncles) caddied at the “Old” course & who luckily has the energy of two men! And his self-proclaimed “A” Team of staff members whom he credits & praises highly – including: Ray Fonseca – Eric Hartmann – Rachel Trevino – John, Dale, Chuck, Pete, Newfy and the many others I have not met. (40+) outings a year, 30,000 rounds played (per course!), leagues, banquets, etc. are all events that just don’t take care of themselves! The people of Chicago Heights have never been afraid of hard work & it is great to see that tradition continues!
The “West” course is located at 1112 Scott Ave & the phone # is (708)754-1400. The “East” course address is 315 Glenwood and the # is (708)754-3673. Both in Chicago Heights Illinois – and easy to find – (but call for directions anyway) – (and) go on out yourself to experience both… the “Old”… and the “New!”
Golf Shots Congratulations to Phil Mickelson on winning the Scottish & British Opens this past month (a rare double) – what a player! And to Jordan Speith (19) who – with his victory at the John Deere Classic – became the youngest player to win on the PGA Tour in (82) years! (And) how about Kenny Perry? Going into July, he had no “Major” championships to his credit – and now he has (2) in a row – Sweet!
And speaking of majors – how about all you former champions of the past (and all participants, friends of the course, and just anyone who wants to have fun) coming out for South Gleason Park’s Reunion Day (Sat. Aug. 17th). It would be a great to see everyone come out to this great old course & bring some pictures, memorabilia, etc. – make your own group – call ahead for tee times – (approx. 8-1:00PM) (219)980-1089 – prizes & food – See you there!
What are you doing Monday August 19th? If you would like to play some golf & help out a good cause – join the Crossroads YMCA – as they present their 9th annual golf outing at Youche GC in Crown Point, IN. Sponsorships & several spots are still available! Call our friends Carl & Ray at (219)750-1082 for the details. All proceeds benefit the children of Lake County. Great event!
Another terrific outing (for a good cause) is being held Sat Sept 14th at Indian Ridge GC in Hobart, IN – the 3rd Annual “Verta Richards Foundation” Golf Outing to raise money for the study of pancreatic cancer. Call (219)942-6850 for info: Great food & great golf & great cause = A Winner!
On Monday Sept 16th, Bridges Development Foundation will be holding their 13th annual golf invitational at the beautiful & historic Innsbrook CC in Merrillville, IN – another great event helping others in our area – contact (ARC Northwest Indiana) at (219)984-6462 for more details.
Quick Shots Who wants to have some fun?! No! I mean who really wants to have some fun?! Why not join in with some really good golfers (+) great people – on Saturday Aug 24th – for the “John’s Place” Annual Golf Outing being held at Wicker Park GC in Highland, IN. For info – call (219)838-4490.
And Speaking of Wicker Park GC – the “Community Center Development Corporation” will be hosting their annual golf outing (with proceeds benefiting the Ophelia Steen Family & Health Service Center (of Hammond, IN) on Friday Aug 16th – for details call (219)853-2360 – always a good time – For a great cause!
Congratulations: To Mike Mitcheltree, Bob Markovich Jr., Al Ovaert & Stan Ragon – who called in & Won! FREE rounds of golf to Deer Creek GC in University Park, IL – and/or – Cedar Creek GC in Cedar Lake, IN (and) thank you to both facilities for providing the prizes! And – if you would like to win some free rounds of golf to a local course – tune in to WJOB – This year I will be appearing as a guest on “The Back Room” radio show starring “Larry The K” and “Big George.” I will be on their show the (3rd) Thursday of every month at approx. 7:00PM – to discuss local golf goings on & GIVING AWAY a few rounds of golf to some of our fine local courses. For a CHANCE TO WIN - or just to listen in – tune in to WJOB1230AM –or- log on to www.wjob1230am.com to view the show. The call-in number is (219)845-1100 – Good Luck!
More charity: A benefit dance for Louie Aquilar Jr. – who was diagnosed recently with stage (3) Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, will be held on Friday Sept 13th at the Serbian Hall in South Chicago – with all proceeds going towards assisting with medical bills etc. Food – fun – music & much more! Call (773)620-2577.
A little help with your golf game can be found at the Lost Marsh of Hammond “One Day Golf Schools.” Join Dean Gabey & his professional staff for a full day of instruction – including on course & video analysis on Aug 3rd, 17th, or 31st. For details call (219)932-4653.
Good luck to all the Pepsi-Illiana participants as they finish with a flourish this month – playing Lansing CC – River Pointe – Summertree & Palmira. (And) of course the “Jackpot” event at Scherwood GC on Sept 6th – Great season!
IT’S HERE! The 2013 Cal Ripken World Series – presented by Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr., the city of Hammond IN & The Optimist Club of Hammond – this event benefits youth programs throughout the region (and) is being held Aug 9th – 16th at the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports Complex (at the intersection of Columbia Ave & River Dr) in Hammond, IN. Come on out and enjoy some great Babe Ruth League Major/60 Style Baseball & help support our local Crown Point & Hammond teams (and) watch visiting teams from as far away as New York & Hawaii! Several Games will be played daily - tickets are only $10 -or- $20 for a weekly pass. Call (219)512-4543 for info. Food vendors, entertainment, (including) – the wonderful Mary Mystica & friends on Aug 9th at approx 5:00PM – (+) much more. Our area is fortunate to hold such a wonderful event – Please try and come and support our kids!
Special thanks this month: To John Stanfa & all the staff at the Park District Golf Courses in Chicago Heights IL. To Sally, Gwen, & Josh at the Ch Hghts Public Library – to Susana at the Park District Office & to Kaz at the Mayor’s Office in Ch Hghts. And a few “shout outs” to: Tom, Guido, Louis, and a wonderful group of war vets who I met at the “West” course. (And) to Rita & her friend Pat of “Rosie’s Babes” (a fun group at the “East” course) who wanted me to say Hi to a special “Babe” – Shirley Keserich – (90) years young & still going strong! And as Always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions, questions, stories, etc. Please contact me at our e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a voicemail at (219)947-4313, and to read past golf course reviews – or to just visit Golf Plus newspaper online – visit our website at GolfPlusOnline.net.
Special Note(s): Nice going – to my good friend Steve Wells form Hampshire CC in Dowagiac, MI – on his play in the US Senior Open – and my apologies to Ed Kasper – from Deer Creek GC – I inadvertently misspelled Ed’s last name last month (as Ed Casper) – Ed is definitely friendly – but he is no “ghost” on the golf course!
Lastly: WC Fields on Golf: Whenever I play a round of golf, I keep a bottle handy…in case I see a snake…which I also keep handy! See you next month!