It All Began With Tomato Cans

Prior to 1920 a group of young men including Horace and Van Fishback, Elmer Sexauer, Earl Bartling and others created the first golf course by mowing the pasture behind Fishback’s barn and adding nine tomato can holes. In 1921 they leased 50 acres of land from A.J. Kendall (Dick’s grandfather) for $175/year.

Terms of the lease included…”that said Leasee will keep said premises continually in a neat, clean and respectable condition, including the water closets, and will keep the sidewalks in front and along said premises cleared of ice and snow, or other obstructions or objectionable things. That said Leasee will not keep or allow any liquors or beverages of an intoxicating nature or tendency to be sold, kept or tolerated on said premises, nor any gambling nor other immoral practice.”

Earl Bartling and Ward Waltz designed the course as the club had no money for a golf architect. Ed Betty, in a 1960 letter to the club, recalled constructing “8 foot greens with sand and oil – quite a change from what you have now.” They had approximately 30 members paying $20/year dues.

Country Club Plans New Clubhouse Soon (Brookings Register 3-25-1926)

The Brookings Country Club is completing its plans for a new clubhouse to cost approximately $3,000 which will be erected this summer, provided the goal of 100 in membership is reached. A drive for new members is being made at this time to bring the list up to the required number. The present membership is about 75.

The new clubhouse will be built so additional room may be added as the needs and financial condition of the club warrant. It will be thoroughly up-to-date in every respect and will fulfill a dream of the club. Architects are preparing the plans for the new building.

The club has just negotiated a two-year lease with the option of buying for a 50-acre tract of land where the golf course is now located from A.J. Kendall.

Contract Let For New Country Club House (Brookings Register 5-20-1926)

The directors of the Country Club let the contract for the new club house last night to Kukuk & Staven, and it is expected the clubhouse will be completed by the middle of the summer.

The new building will be located near the road entering the grounds, between the ninth green adn the No. 1 tee. It will face the east; and will be quite easily accessible from the road. It will be 28×50 feet in size with porches on the north and east. A west porch possibly added later. There will be a dance floor 28×40, a basement 28×50, concession and locker rooms and kitchen. Upstairs there will be a ladies parlor and buffet, and everything will be arranged for the best comfort and convenience of the members of the club.

Summer of 1942

When the war began, the membership, in a burst of patriotism, voted to close the club in order to conserve rubber and gas. During the summer Cash Wells, Cliff James and Pete Grape attended a tournamnet in Marshall, MN and spotted cars from at least 200 miles away. Exasperated at the lack of patriotism in others, they decided to reopen their own course with improvements. Cliff relates, “The next morning I called a meeting at the Tasty Cafe and proposed we not only open the club, but put in grass greens too! Of course, we had no money so we went to the membership and solicited. Elmer Sexauer heard about the project and offered to match any donations and within two weeks we had $2600.00.

Then we went to the club, we had to stand on top of the gate to see over the weeds. Fortunately, Ed Johnson, the Ford dealer, had used the property to display his farm machinery, so we got him to demonstrate some of the machines in order to get some of the weeds mowed. The Earl Kjellson dumped some old oil on the remaining weeds and we burned them. Fae recalls that the noxious smoke from the blaze polluted the entire city of Brookings for days.

Next we assigned every member a green; they were responsible for laying it out, sedding and watering it. We did get some advice from the caretaker at Minnehaha, “If you don’t have any money, just make them small!” So those greens were enlarged six or seven times as the club could afford it.

New Greens Added (Brookings Register 08-08-1945)

Country Club members, men and women alike, have done wonders in the rebuilding plan for the nine hole course which lays within rolling, scenic landscape along the east shores of Lake Campbell. The average golfer will have no problem in making the round in par, and the above average golfer will be challenged at each hole in breaking regular figures.

There are doglegs with the green blinded from view by well branched trees. There are little tricky holes challenging the patience of the swingers and then the long distance holes are interesting with some stretching in long distance.

Trees, plenty of them, add zest to the course, it not only beautifies the landscape but is a obstruction to the golfer. Some of the more ardent enthusiasts at the Country Club insist in the next few years another nine holes will be added. If so, Brookings will have the best 18 hole course in the state.

The Later Years

Few references to the Country Club appear in the news after 1950. Club minutes during these two decades can be summed up very quickly: persistent debate.

During the early 1950’s members annually renewed the plea for the remodeling of the clubhouse. The 1960’s constantly included references to “the new nine holes.” Both goals have been realized. One set of materials, long buried in Ralph Felberg’s basement gave light to the personalities of the Brookings Country Club during this time.

The clubhouse remodeling was finally completed in 1960 and celebrated with a Past Presidents Dinner. Letters from many of these members included recollection of their years in office.

Jerry Fort (1957)

“The highlight of the year, I would say, was the paying off of all the indebtedness certificates. A couple of other changes which our group accomplished were to employ the new greenskeeper, Magnus “Muggy” Nelson and to reintroduce to the club the special right arm exercises, designed to take care of excess nickles, dimes and quarters.

We did NOT accomplish some of the following goals:

  1. Have a formal dance. (This was the goal of some of the wives.)
  2. Have an afternoon tea and bridge party on Wednesday for men to replace stag.
  3. Get Doc Colby to have the eggs on the stove on Sunday morning for the first arrivals.
  4. Stop me from shanking my irons, particularly on #7 fairway.”

Vern Welander (1948-49)

“Fireworks. I remember the first time we shot them off. Doc Horrigan, Kendall and Quail were on a team. We blew one up! I never heard such a stampede in my life. Horrigan claimed at the time he got in a car. I think he was abusing the truth because I never heard a door open or slam and when he got to the clubhouse, Doc had grease spots on his clothes. I know damn well he dove underneath.”

A.L. Ford

“Probably the happiest years of my rather long life were spent on the shores of Lake Campbell bitching and gripping about an uncontrollable slice that ended up in the water.”

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