Recession takes toll on local golf

Updated 4/25/2015 7:57 PM
  • Pottawatomie Golf Course pro Ron Skubisz says "golf participation is down to 1990 levels." Some people say the recession hasn't loosened its group on area golfers.

      Pottawatomie Golf Course pro Ron Skubisz says "golf participation is down to 1990 levels." Some people say the recession hasn't loosened its group on area golfers. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

If you are fond of playing golf at Fox Valley Country Club in North Aurora, you'll want to be sure to get a round in this season.

There is talk the City of Aurora is looking to sell the site rather than continue pouring money into upkeep. A developer looking to build senior housing is already eyeing the location on Route 25.

It's another signal that maybe golf never recovered from the recession. Hopefully we won't see a lot of courses closing in the coming years. With that in mind, much of this week's column is related to golf.

It's tough to make the local math work better in golf's favor.

In 1985, there were 28 golf courses within an 18-mile drive of Pottawatomie Golf Course in St. Charles, and today there are 51, said Pottawatomie pro Ron Skubisz.

"But golf participation is back down to 1990 levels, so it's at a saturation point now with the number of courses," Skubisz said.

The lingering recession and bigger demands on people's time when they are able to get back to work have hurt golf rounds.

"The recession also hurt the funds of some retired people, or retirees are helping their own kids with child care costs, watching the grandkids for them," Skubisz added.

In golf's heydays, corporations sponsored outings or sent employees to charitable events. That's not happening at a high level these days, Skubisz said.

But corporate outings also "forced" many people who didn't particularly enjoy the game into playing for business purposes.

"The golf clubs are probably in the same place they left them when they were told they wouldn't have to do business outings any more," Skubisz added.

When a course loses a lot of rounds like that, it is hard to fill them back in.

Pottawatomie still attracts a good number of players, though not like in the past. "We do have 32 players for our senior tournament this weekend, and we are excited about that," Skubisz said.

Fixing those swings

Another guy hoping to keep golf high on people's recreation lists is Dave O'Neal of Geneva. Plenty of golfers tuned up their swings through O'Neal's lessons when he was manager at Royal Fox and, later, at Royal Hawk in St. Charles for several years.

He's now at Bliss Creek in Sugar Grove, where he will manage that course as well as Valley Green in North Aurora. He's an excellent teacher, but it's not likely I will bother him to salvage my golf game. Many others have tried, but they found it is difficult to turn junk into jewelry.

Golf fundraiser

And then there is always the tried-and-true fact that golf courses tend to be good places for fundraisers.

Such is the case with Heart of Hope, a Geneva nonprofit that focuses on drug prevention. The organization is hosting its first golf outing Monday, May 4, at Prairie Landing Golf Course in West Chicago to raise funds for Hearts for Hope, LTM Heroin Awareness and Support Foundation, HERO -- Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization and PATH -- Positive Acceptance Toward Healing. Information is available from Executive Director Lea Minalga at (630) 327-9937.

Still going strong

It's hard to believe it's been nearly 30 years since the late Skott Zimmerman started the Midwest Golf Pro-Am out of his St. Charles golf shop. The event, which allowed local residents to play with well-known professionals, has raised a lot of money for Special Olympics in Illinois ever since.

The 28th annual pro-am takes place on June 22 at Royal Fox Country Club in St. Charles. On average, the pro-am has raised $70,000 a year for Special Olympics.

I was fortunate enough to play in these outings the first few years. And here's something that still bothers me: I met actor James MacArthur, a relative of Zimmerman's, at one of the outings. MacArthur, who died in 2010, was famous for his role as "Dano" in the "Hawaii Five-O" series, but I never watched that show much. What didn't click in with me at the time was that he also starred in "Swiss Family Robinson," one of my all-time favorites as a kid. I would have loved to talk to him about that movie.

For animal lovers

Of course, there has to be a golf outing for those who love animals. That would the Dogleg Open July 10 at The Highlands in Elgin to benefit the Anderson Animal Shelter.

Those interested should contact the shelter at (847) 697-2880, ext. 25.

New breakfast joint

Looking to fill a void they see in downtown restaurants offering breakfast, Rob Mondi and his partners on Wednesday are planning to open Abby's Breakfast and Lunch at 11 N. Third St. in St. Charles, previously the Thai Zie Noodles and Bar.

With offerings such as breakfast enchiladas with chicken chorizo, corned beef sweet potato hash and waffle biscuits and gravy to go along with all of the standards, Mondi is hoping the place will quickly become a downtown staple.

Mondi previously sold his Slider Franks location on the east side of St. Charles, and he's anxious to try this breakfast spot with partners Matt McCoy and Abby Mejia.

A plan for the arts

We have known since it began its work a few years ago that the St. Charles Arts Council is pretty aggressive in promoting the arts in the city.

Now the council is going a step further in starting a campaign to establish a Downtown Center for the Arts and Education.

The organization is hosting an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. May 7 in the Clancy Law Offices building at 7 S. Second Ave. in St. Charles to introduce this concept.

Those involved with the council have long talked about one of its main goals being a place for the arts to prosper in the city. For those passionate about the arts, this could be the start of something significant.

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