Mount Prospect Country Club once owned by reputed gangsters
The Mount Prospect Country Club was originally known as "Northwest Hills Country Club" and was developed by Axel Lonnquist in 1926 as part of a real estate promotion.
The first nine holes of the course were opened in 1926, with the other nine following soon after. A Tudor-style clubhouse and a small house next to it were added in 1929.
Lonnquist sold a few lots, but in 1931 he lost the entire parcel, including the golf course, thanks to the Great Depression.
Over the following 27 years, its name was changed to the "Mount Prospect Country Club" and it was run as a daily fee course by first, Harold Willson and then by Henry Sophie. But everything changed in 1958 when Sophie unwittingly sold the course and clubhouse for $800,000 to reputed gangster, Richard Hauff, a 1953 graduate of Arlington High School. He was only 23 at the time so there was lots of speculation about the source of his funds.
Known as the "mystery man of Rush Street Night Club circles," according to one article at the time, Hauff was allegedly an associate of syndicate notable August Circella, brother of Capone hoodlum Nicholas (Nick Dean) Circella, who was deported to Argentina in 1955.
Hauff began his short reign at the club with much hoopla about making it a private course, adding an Olympic-sized pool with cabanas, improving the men's locker room and adding a women's locker room and lounge. In fact, he did engage renowned golf course architect Trent Jones to redesign the course and add west wing to the clubhouse, which included dining rooms, a cocktail lounge and a dance floor.
Then, in July 1959, in a bid to put the name of the Mount Prospect Country Club on the map, Hauff held the $20,000 Master's Tournament for Women at the course, attracting the top names in women's golf, including Patty Berg, Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright and Kathy Cornelius. Rawls was the winner of the $6,500 top prize, the largest purse in women's professional golf up to that time.
However, the tournament left Hauff a big loser, He lost between $27,000 and $40,000 on the tournament, starting his quick slide into bankruptcy, which was finally declared a year later, on Aug. 26, 1960.
Talk about the local park district purchasing the club began then. A small group began campaigning for a $1.1 million referendum which would allow the Mount Prospect Park District to purchase the course.
"We had a good indication that the people behind Hauff planned to subdivide it. Fear of that was the motivating force," said Earl Lewis, one of the residents in the group advocating that the park district purchase the course.
During the drive to make the course into park district property, the course deteriorated badly. According to a 1960 Chicago Tribune article, "The course, once one of the best-kept in the Chicago area, is littered with broken bottles, chairs, caddie carts and beer cans. Many of the greens are badly burned for want of watering and the rough has grown to a point where even the best pro golfers would find themselves in unplayable lies."
Mount Prospect police officers were also forced to patrol the course 24 hours a day, keeping a close watch on the clubhouse, which was damaged by vandals.
In October 1960, a referendum for the park district to purchase the course was put before the public. However, it failed, because those north of the tracks argued that they should have a pool for their area since those on the south already had a pool (at Lions Park) and now were going to add the golf course.
In response, Hauff put the golf course up for sale and soon afterward sold it to a 12-person group which included reputed gangsters Orlando Colamatteo, Frank Vigilante, Edward Millet and Sam DeFrank.
This added urgency to a second referendum, held on April 1, 1961. This time, with the purchase of Meadows Park included to satisfy those on the north side of town, the $1.6 million referendum passed and the park district purchased the Mount Prospect Country Club.
Today, the course remains one of the Chicago area's top courses, especially with the renovation and redesign which was completed last year.