Warmer weather brings northern golfers out of hiberation

By Chuck Rupnow
Published on

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- Max Gilbert was en route to a business meeting Tuesday when he heard from a friend that Hickory Hills Golf Course was opening for the season around noon.

"That's all it took. I turned around, got my clubs out of the garage and here I am," the 42-year-old Eau Claire resident said while tying his golf shoes in the course's parking lot. "I'm sure my wife isn't going to be too happy about my choice, but I've had to explain decisions like this before."

The unseasonably warm weather caused course officials to deem the facility ready for play and took golfers out of hibernation. Tuesday's high temperature was 70 degrees.

Wendel Jacobs, 53, of Eau Claire, when asked what he expected to shoot on opening day, said: "You don't really think we keep score on the first day, do you? For the first day, well, maybe the first week or two, it's all just practice; unless I score well, that is."

Hickory Hills owner John Norby said Tuesday was the second-earliest opening day that he could remember.

"The frost is gone, the ground is firmed up, we're mowing the greens and we're ready to go," he said. "It's not June conditions, but it's not bad. We're golfing."

Norby said "people are ready" for golf, particularly because it was a poor winter outdoor sports season. "We were fortunate to get some golf in here last December, and now we're right back at it, which is good."

The decision to open the course was made after superintendent Bob Steele said Tuesday morning that conditions were favorable, Norby said.

"The employees were ready to get going again too," Norby said while workers were busy cleaning and prepping different areas of the course. "We've got some retired gentlemen who work here, and they didn't want to be cooped up any more either."

Mark Lerum of Colfax said he scheduled last week to take a half-day off work Tuesday and lucked out with the weather.

"This is totally awesome," he said while standing next to his playing partner, who declined to provide his name for fear his wife would find out.

"We had hopes of golfing and the course being open," Lerum added. "If not, we likely would have gone to a driving range. It's just nice to get out."

Loren Holte, 68, of Lake Hallie played a few rounds last month in Florida, so he was prepared for Tuesday's outing at Hickory Hills.

"You never plan to be out this early in Wisconsin, but I'll take it," he said. "I called some others, but couldn't get ahold of them. Most people aren't ready yet. Nobody expects weather like this this early, but we'll take it."

This article was written by Chuck Rupnow from The Leader-Telegram and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.