Palmira G.C. - A Family Golf Story
- by Pete Mandich
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (East Chicago, IN) a fine young son was born to a prominent local couple. This boy, Angelo Bonaventura, was destined to be one of the most well respected physicians in the Region, a wonderful father and husband, and for the substance of this particular writing, an unlikely golf course founder.
In 1971, now, Dr. Angelo Bonaventura, took a large piece of farm land (150 acres) he owned in St. John, Indiana - where he kept horses for his growing family and opened a golf course. He named it “Palmira” - which was the beautiful first name of his mother. The good doctor, a non-golfer for the most part, built this course to ensure his children would have a legacy, a place to call their own, and a thread to keep the family together.
The course itself was far from perfect at the beginning, but has evolved into one of the Region’s most unique golf facilities. You see - Palmira G.C. has it all: a peaceful setting with beautiful non-interrupted vistas, well conditioned fairways and greens, mature trees, numerous ponds and rolling hills, a superior practice range, (3) putting greens, and the best short game practice area around. But, as I said this facility was not always as you see it today. As fate would have it, one of the young employees who worked here went away to Purdue University, came home with his engineering degree, married into the family (wife Kelly), and became a significant cog in the transformation of the course. Rich Nicpon is his name, and with the help of many people, most notably Bill Zientara, (the longtime golf course superintendent), re-worked, altered, massaged, and created holes that now comprise the eighteen challenging holes you will face when you play the current Palmira Golf Club.
It would take many pages to describe in detail all that has occurred, but the main thing is - it worked! From all (4) sets of tees you face a fair challenge. The fairways are wide where they need to be, but narrow if you choose to cut off too much. Distance markers are plentiful and well positioned. The greens are large and well manicured, but rolling with few easy putts. In other words, the course now measuring anywhere from 5,300 to 7,000 yards will make you use every club in your bag.
If you look at the 17th hole measuring 609 yards, you may get a little weak in the knees, but history will tell you that one of the unique features of the original design had this hole at a massive 700+ yards! At that time #17 was known as “the longest hole in the world”, and may very well have been.
Palmira has proven a strong enough test to host the well respected Lake-Porter Amateur Championship the past two years, and will again be welcoming the best the Region has to offer in the last part of July. Come on out and give it a try, that trophy still means a lot. Call for information. All phone numbers and websites at the end of this article.
Somehow two fine players have maneuvered their way through the ponds, hazards, and other challenges of the course to card 65’s - the course record - by superintendent Bill Zientara’s son Bill, and Dennis Scaggs, another local golf standout, strong stuff! Bill’s other son, Ken, has been the “Times” champion three times - good golfing genes!
Palmira Golf Club offers a Tuesday morning senior scramble, a junior league on Thursdays, range memberships, couples leagues, and beginning in June “Family Nights” featuring” for $10.00 per person golf w/cart after 5:00pm! For further information on these promotions and future events visit the websites, call the course (219) 365-4331 or look in “Golf Plus” for the ads.
If you are looking for help with your game there are at least three qualified professional instructors who spend time at the course. Ask in the golf shop for their contact numbers. Also, a “New” junior summer-long tournament similar to the Pepsi Challenge will be starting the 2nd Tuesday in June, (June 14th), and run for eight weeks. This event is for juniors from 8th grade on up to including Freshman in college. Get involved, sounds like fun.
In all, Palmira has proven to be “Just What The Doctor Ordered.” His family - including daughters Kelly, Angela, Colleen, Judy, and Mary Beth along with their brothers Michael and Leo have “A Tie That Binds.” Look for them at the course, along with some grandchildren including Rich and Kelly’s daughters Mira (good name), and Nina who also comes around to help out or play a little golf. Park your car, grab your clubs and leave the world behind. Walk to the simple country clubhouse, sit down and have a hot dog, pet the wonderful family dog “Bambina”, and feel at home! Then go challenge yourself on this fine “Family Golf Course”. Well done Doc!!
For further information concerning Palmira Golf Club go to: www.palmiragolf.com or call the golf shop at 219-365-4331. Palmira Golf Club is located 1 mile west of the intersection of Rts. 41 and 231 in St. John, Indiana on Rt. 231.
I heard Jimmy “Dr. Chu” Vaughn hit the links recently! Congratulations, also, on his & wife Stephies’ 45th wedding anniversary.
The large group that traveled to Jasper, Indiana recently, saw Craig Gall make a hole-in-one on his 1st hole at Sultan’s Run GC. (Shotgun Start) - Nice of him to buy a round!
Want to see some great golf? Some future LPGA Tour stars? Plan to attend the 63rd U.S. Girls Championship July 18th-23rd at Olympia Fields CC in Olympia Fields, IL - for info log on to: www.OFCC.INFO - admission is free.
Speaking of great golf - Seve Ballesteros, who passed away in May will be greatly missed. What he did for worldwide golf cannot be overemphasized.
Good friend Nevada Slick (Jeff Lenzo) had a triumphant return to the wrestling ring at the American Legion in Hobart last month. No report on whether he used his 9-iron, but a good amount of money was raised for charity.
Congratulations to Judy Mathias of Lowell, who called in on the May show and won a gift certificate for Pheasant Valley CC in Crown Point.
For a chance to win Free Rounds of Golf, including cart to one of the four fine Hegan-owned golf courses, tune in to the radio show hosted by “The Preacher” on Thursday, June 2nd between noon and 2pm on WJOB 1230 AM or you can view the show online by logging on to www.WJOB1230.com. Give me and “The Preacher” a call at 219-845-1100.
Stopped in at Innsbrook CC to see Jimmy Formas. The place just keeps getting better and better.
If you haven’t been to the new clubhouse at Lost Marsh GC yet, go. Golf professional Don Plohg and the staff will be happy to show off this new Hammond landmark.
Notes: Happy Father’s Day - Go see my friends at Cam Golf. They are having a sale June 10th-18th (just in time). See their ad in the June issue of Golf Plus newspaper or call 708-474-9272. If you want to learn golf, try Creekside Golf Center in Valparaiso. It looks like the most comprehensive program around. June brings St. Thomas More Fest, our buddies Tim and Laurie point out Dan Hampton is coming this year - "good cause" - try to make it. Another good cause has the VFW Post #1563 in Merrillville hosting a motorcycle show on Sat., June 25th - food, prizes and entertainment by the Relics, Mary Mystica, Tracy Okamoto and Jesse Hernandez. All proceeds go to aid American Veterans and their families - contact (219) 769-1563.
As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions, questions, stories, etc. Please contact me at our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a voice mail: (219) 947-4314.
Lastly: Who is ducking who? Still waiting for the much anticipated match between “The Preacher” and “Big George” Vincent vs. Ronny Rotso and Pete Auksel - Come On!!
Pete Mandich, a former Andrean High School standout, will feature articles of area golf courses
throughout the 2011 golfing season. Below is a brief bio.
l First started hitting balls at age 3 and playing at Calumet GC
l Grew up playing mostly at Gleason Park and Gary CC (now Innsbrook)
l Mentored by PGA Golf Professional Herb Meinert
l Won several junior golf tournaments, including Lake-Porter Junior Champion 1973
l Played and captained Andrean’s golf team 4 years
l Played collegiate golf at Tulane University and Western Michigan University
l Participated in Indiana Jr., Indiana Amateur, Western Amateur, CDGA events (several)
l Played in countless professional events throughout the Midwest & Florida
l Head golf professional at Balmoral Woods G&CC
l Asst. golf pro at Butterfield CC (Oakbrook, IL)
l Head golf pro at Crystal Lake CC (Crystal Lake, IL)
l Worked with or advised a multitude of golf related businesses & manufacturing companies
l Founded & owned 3 separated golf companies
l Built and owned golf driving range & miniature golf course
l Golf instructor for 35 years
l Guest speaker for various PGA sections throughout Midwest as well as National Golf Foundation
l Personal: Currently resides in Hammond, IN, married to the talented local singer Mary “Mystica”, 3 children