The town of Highland Indiana for (100+) years, -and- the beautiful Wicker Memorial Park & Golf Course
for (85+) years, have served Northwest Indiana, the state of Indiana, (and) indeed the entire Midwest –
with outstanding leadership, high quality recreation & businesses, (and) most importantly with a group
of truly “caring” citizens who take great pride in their community.
Highland IN – A Brief History In 1847, Judith & Michael Johnston were the first couple to establish a home along the well-traveled former Indian Trail, now known as Ridge Road in what would become Highland Indiana. Known for many years as “Clough Postal Station” (after a large landowner who maintained the local post office on his property) – more (mostly Dutch) settlers arrived, and although there was abundant game in the area (including deer, bear, and water fowl) – in order to utilize this mostly “marshy” unproductive land for farming – they had to tackle the difficult task of changing the flow of the river (and) dig a series of strategically placed ditches. In so doing, they were able to turn this land into an agriculturally important region of Northwest Indiana.
Businesses soon sprang up to process their various crops of vegetables – and services, numerous churches, and a series of new transportation routes were created. Railroad surveyors changed the name – (in approx. 1883) – to “Highlands” because of the (now) mostly high area along these “dunes” that were originally formed by the ancient “Lake Chicago” which once covered the entire region & in (1910) the town of “Highland” dropped the (s) and incorporated – with a population of approx. 300.
As the years passed the town of Highland grew in all directions, and its population grew with it. By 1940, there were about 2,500 people -but- the next (30) years saw a population increase exceeding 400% - due in large part to the quality of life & small town values that existed in the community.
The current town of Highland – the largest “town” in Indiana – is now home to substantial homes, a vast array of churches & civic groups, an amazing series of parks (including over (175) acres of parkland), a wonderful downtown district along Highway Avenue – (including many shops and restaurants) – an extremely successful number of businesses along Indianapolis Blvd. (Rte #41) – as well as – further developments along Kennedy Avenue, 45th Avenue to the south, and indeed throughout the entirety of Highland.
Wicker Memorial Park In the mid 1920’s, a large land owner named Charles Wicker donated a tract of land along current day Ridge Road (Rte #6) -and- a group of (16) civic-minded individuals purchased adjacent land in order to develop a park to service the people of Northwest Indiana. On June 14th, 1927 (Flag Day), an amazing (150,000!) people came from all over the country to witness President Calvin Coolidge dedicate the new “Wicker Memorial Park.” This park was built to honor the memory of our nation’s WWI veterans – and the park included: an (18) hole golf course – (designed by Tom Bendelow – the finest & most prolific golf course architect of his day) -and- soon thereafter (in 1939) a swimming pool was added (the largest in Indiana at the time) – an amusement park was built (including a train ride) – a stable with (14) horses was also built & tennis courts, picnic areas, a miniature golf course, and a football field & baseball diamond were created.
Wicker Memorial Park – Today The current Wicker Memorial Park is slightly different, but still offers recreational opportunities for the whole family! This fantastic facility (professionally run by the office of N. Township trustee Frank J. Mrvan) -and- the current park board of Richard Novak, Ralph Flores Jr., and Pete Auksel has continued to expand & improve the park with the addition of all manner of activities for the enjoyment of us all.
Today’s park still houses the Wicker Park golf course – (expertly managed by Mr. John Bierman for the past (6) years), tennis courts, a golf driving range, (and) here we go! An incredible playground & a “Splash Pad” you must see, an ice rink, a bike/jogging path that is the envy of any park, much sought after picnic grounds, an area for outdoor concerts (including a gazebo which held (22) weddings last year), a “clubhouse” – used by many groups – including a very active group of Pinochle players, a social center that can accommodate up to (500) for banquets, weddings, parties, etc. – services like – bike rentals, a kids day camp, art in the park, a dog run (and) more!! All this is open (7) days a week and is run by an exceptionally friendly staff – overseen (for the last (7) years) by the Director of Parks/Superintendent – Brett Bierman.
Wicker Park GC Wicker Park GC is a challenging, yet fun, (18) hole course with (3) sets of tees – measuring from 5,300+ to 6,800+ total yds., consisting of tree-lined (mainly Blue Grass & POA) fairways – the course offers a variety of holes with water hazards, fairway & greenside bunkering, rolling greens (which can be quick at times), & closely mowed rough (assisting in pace of play). Wicker will test even the best of players on some holes (try #10 into the north wind!) but gives you a chance for birdie on others. The yardages are well marked, there are hole lay-out tee markers to assist you, and the course is relatively flat – for those who enjoy walking.
There is a nice putting green, a “new” chipping practice area, a driving range w/mats -or- grass (as weather allows); the golf carts are in great shape w/windshields & “roofs”, pull carts are available, and rangers patrol the course to further assist with pace of play. The golf shop carries the necessities, and professional instruction is available for all levels of players with region’s stand outs – Rich Morales Jr., Joe Piatek, and Bill Springer.
In past years, Wicker Park GC was prone to “major” flooding – (but) today the course is open during all but the worst of weather conditions. (And) this is no accident! Over the last (5-10) years, new ponds have been added, levees have been raised, and “continuous” cart paths have been installed. In the (13) years that the highly qualified golf course Superintendent Getty Sikora has worked at Wicker, he and his staff – including (Roger, Milan & Mike) have had the challenge of re-seeding the bulk of the entire course; rebuilding (7) greens, assisting with the installation of a new irrigation system, and dealing with the loss of more than (150) mature trees; the result – Wicker has never looked (or played) better, and last season set a record (32,000) rounds played!
More Wicker Park golf course has a long history of customer service – including some fine past professionals like – Hoss Pavlich, Andy Soley, Johnny Riebe, Mark O’Brien, and of course our good friend Tom Zimmerman. The current staff including: Lauren Pollard, Jessica Hoelzel, Janine Wahadlo, Saundra Bremer, Jaclyn Jarrett, Natalie Darnell, Lindsay Brandner, Ed Goen, Dane Huebner, Chuck Ascencio, Ed Panek, Frank Katsinis, Rich Morales Jr., Ron Blythe , Bill Zrnchik, Pat Warzak, and Carl Schmidt are continuing this tradition & could not be more helpful.
Wicker Park GC is home to a variety of community golf outings including: local firehouses, church & civic groups, the Highland Chamber of Commerce, Steelworkers Local 1010, and many more. The course has (13!) Men’s & Women’s leagues; hosts the "1st Tee” Junior program (in conjunction with Lost Marsh GC), golf teams from Highland & East Chicago Indiana, the annual Northwest Indiana Junior Golf Association Tournament - offers great rates & membership packages, and has a very active Men’s Club & Senior golf schedule (including the very popular Monday Senior Scramble). Last year Wicker introduced the very creative “Night Golf” event, (and) for the first time the course was open year round. And last, but not least, the golf clubhouse is home to the “19th hole” – a great place to hang out, play cards, have a hot dog and a cool one -or- just forget those putts that lipped out!
In Conclusion There is a lot to like about Highland, Indiana (and) Wicker Memorial Park & Golf Course. Whether you are witnessing a visit by the President of the United States – as we did in 1927 (and) in 2008 – with the appearance of (then) Presidential candidate Barack Obama; visiting the newly remodeled multi-faceted Lincoln Center, spending time at one of the many events/festivals that the town puts on, or just having a picnic at Wicker Park -or- any of the many parks scattered throughout the town – Highland Indiana does the region proud! And please remember to give a “salute” to the special “Highway of Flags” across from Wicker Park in “appreciation for those who fought & died to keep our country a free nation!”
Wicker Memorial Park & Golf Course is located at the intersection of Ridge Rd & Indianapolis Blvd in Highland, IN. (Approx. (1) mile south of the intersection of Rte 80/94 and Indianapolis Blvd.) & about (20) miles from downtown Chicago, IL. The address is 2000 Ridge Rd – Highland, IN 46322…for information call (219)838-9809 & go out and experience our “Region’s Playground” for yourself!
For those who would like to know more about the history of Highland & Wicker Park – visit the Highland Historical Society Museum located in the Lincoln Center – info (219)922-1047 -or- visit the Lake County Public Library’s “Indiana Room” & Check out the book “A Brief History of Highland, IN From Ice Age to 1930” by Mary Jo McGee.
Golf Shots Another great Masters! Congratulations to Adam Scott on winning his 1st major – in a playoff with Angel Cabrera. And what a performance by (14) year old Guan Tianlang, who also made the cut in the recent PGA Tour stop in New Orleans. I don’t think it is too far a stretch to say that what Arnold Palmer did for the popularity of golf in the US, this young man is doing for golf in China.
Remember – Sunday May 12th is Mother’s Day! How about taking Mom out for a day of golf -or- treating her to a gift certificate to her favorite golf shop. She deserves the best!
Another reminder – Gleason Park GC in Gary, IN is organizing a “Reunion” Day for later this summer – give Bob Farag a call - for info: (219)980-1089.
Sounds like the (100+) large group of region golfers who ventured south to the French Lick area for some golf-getaway fun – had a great time. Mike Salmon holed out on a par (4) for eagle & the ladies (including) Paulette Snemis and Karen Jocha got in a few good shots as well – with Karen winning a “closest to the pin” on a par three at Sultan’s Run (from the Men’s tees!).
Quick Shots Anyone interested in playing a round of “Speed Golf ?” A group is being formed to hold a Speed Golf Competition locally. For info, call (219)588-9796.
A “Big Deal” is coming to Hammond, IN August 9th-16th – the 2013 Cal Ripken World Series! Teams from throughout the nation will be competing for this coveted title – come on out & see some future major leaguers – as they take the field at the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports Complex. For tickets, info, or sponsorship opportunities, call (219)512-4543.
Congratulations to Jim Hinkelman of Munster, IN & Stacy VanderWoude of St. John, IN who both called in to WJOB during the golf segment of the “Back Room” Show (and) correctly answered the quiz question(s). They both won (2) free rounds of golf to the wonderful Glenwoodie GC in Glenwood, IL – thanks to the kind folks at Glenwoodie GC for providing the prize(s).
And speaking of 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!
Some shout outs: To Ray-Mike-John-Trini-Pete-Vern-Terry&Karl who were enjoying some cards at Wicker Park’s 19th hole. To: the (mostly) retired teachers group who have played every Fri. at a different course (with 30+ players) for about a dozen years now (and, who happened to be at Wicker Park the day I was visiting). *Boy can I see the check-marks as they read this! And, to Phyllis, Dorothy, & Al of the NWI Pinochle Club – great group!
Some charity: (2) events – outside of golf – I would like to mention…A Benefit is being held to assist a local gentleman named Ray Pohlman, who suffered a stroke recently (and) could use our help. The event is being held at Blue 82 Bar & Grill in St. John, IN on Sunday May 26th from (12-7PM). For info: call (219)545-1611.
#2: A fundraiser is also being held for local musical standout Amber Rose – who is battling breast cancer. I hope to see you at Rascal’s in St. John, IN on Sunday June 2nd from 2-10PM – please call (219)365-7880 if you can help. *And, by the way, both events will be providing live entertainment from some of our region’s most talented musicians – who have graciously donated their time.
Special thanks this month: To Sue Douthett of the Highland Historical Society: To Susan at the Highland Public Library: To Patty at the Lake County Public Library: To Lori at the office of Mr. Frank Mrvan: to Mary & Colleen at the Highland Chamber of Commerce: To Steve Vermejan & Tom Zimmerman of the Wicker Park Men’s Club: To Samantha, Rebecca, and Sue at the Highland Parks & Recreation Department: To John Bierman, Brett Bierman, and Getty Sikora at Wicker Park: To Michael Modrzejewski for all his help: And Most of all to my lovely wife Mary for, well, everything.
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.
Lastly: While writing this article on Wicker Memorial Park & the city of Highland, Indiana, a local Highland resident and great patriot passed on. Mr. George T. Okamoto. A man who served our nation with great honor – having been awarded (2) Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, (and) the Congressional Gold Medal. My condolences go out to his wonderful family. I Salute You Fine Sir!