More than 1.5 million rounds have been played at 93-year-old Snyder Park Golf Course. And, despite city golf operations losing more than $1 million in the last three years, many golfers don’t want to see it close.
The golf course has served as a place where many former golfers have been memorialized with drinking fountains and trees — and some who have even had their ashes spread on the course.
“Many of us spent more time down there than we did at home, especially in the summer time,” Jim Hulsizer, a local golf historian, said.
The National Trail Parks and Recreation District board will vote Monday to close the course to erase an approximately $356,000 shortfall this year. The board will meet at 5 p.m. at the NTPRD administration building, 1301 Mitchell Blvd.
“We’re definitely disappointed to have to see it close, if that’s the position that that board follows through with,” said city commissioner Kevin O’Neill, the liaison to NTPRD. “Until they vote on it, it’s never done until it’s done.”
National Trail’s golf operations have lost approximately $1.08 million over the last three years, including about $493,000 last year.
The closing of the Snyder Park golf course will save the financially-strapped district an estimated $357,500.
“We know that something has to be done to take care of those expenses,” O’Neill said. “It’s budgetary. We would love to have three golf courses, but it’s just not at the cards right at this minute.”
The course was established in 1920 and it opened on July 4, 1921. It became an 18-hole course in 1922.
Hulsizer used park district records to determine that 1.61 million rounds have been played at Snyder Park.
Hulsizer, 87, worked as a caddy at the course beginning in 1940, where he later played his first round of golf. He also raked sand traps and later watered the course at night, making 35 cents an hour, but “you got to play golf for free.”
“When a golfer gets dedicated, he’ll do just about anything to play golf,” Hulsizer said.
He said about 70 memorials are on the course – including many which were dedicated to local golfers who served in the military, such as the Dee Meiser Memorial Fountain dedicated in 1946.
“It’s a real memorial ground,” Hulsizer said.
The National Trail board said at the work session it will have a plan in place for the memorials if the course were to close.
Hulsizer said former golfers have had their ashes spread on both tee boxes and the greens at the course.
“It’s been going on for a long time,” Hulsizer said.
NTPRD golf professional Tim Grieser said he’s never authorized anyone to spread their ashes at the course, but if it happens, word eventually gets back to the pro shop.
“For a lot of people older than I am, the golf course is a part of their family,” Grieser said. “You’ve got those die-hard Snyder Park (golfers) that live and breathe that golf course. It’s going to be sad for them. It’s sad for me.”
The reality is 36 holes in one location will be easier to manage and maintain, O’Neill said.
“Maybe we’ll be able to put some money into those courses and bring them back to where they were 15 years ago,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said he did not attend the work session because he wanted the board to make the decision without a city commissioner looking over their shoulder.
“We’re going to respect that decision,” O’Neill said. “It’s a shame it has to be Snyder Park.”
Grieser, who began working on the grounds crew in 1997 and was later hired as the head golf pro at Snyder Park Golf Course in 2002, said he’s received messages from golfers all over the country about the possibility of the course closing.
“It’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people, and not just people locally. It’s going to be sad to see a place with such tradition possibly no longer available,” Grieser said.
Grieser said people get emotional when talking about Snyder Park.
“I’ve seen grown men almost in tears when they talk about their old memories,” Grieser said.
Some NTPRD board members said they would like to see the course stay open for a few months this summer before the course is closed forever. Director Leann Castillo is unsure if it will be possible to keep the course open for a few months or even a few weeks because of finances.
“We’re looking at what options we may have, but we can’t promise anything,” Castillo said.
The Springfield City Am was scheduled to be at Snyder Park this summer.
He said Reid Park will be able to handle all the leagues at Snyder Park, but some tee times may need to be moved up or back a half-hour.
The district will also need to figure out where to put the current carts, including privately-owned carts, at Reid Park, Hulsizer said.
“I just hate to see Snyder Park go, but on the other hand, I can see the problems on the other side, too,” said Hulsizer, a former Wittenberg University golf captain.
He believes golfers will take advantage of the final months at Snyder Park Golf Course, if it were to stay open into this season.
Donna Warfield, a former Women’s City Am champion, is disappointed to see Snyder close. She called it a mainstay in the community, especially for who like to walk a smaller course.
Warfield’s biggest fear is membership will decrease at Reid Park after Snyder Park is closed. She also hopes money can be used to modernize the facilities.
“People need a nice place to have a luncheon,” Warfield said. “You still have old this and old that and you want people to come out and have outings. They’re not going to have outings if they can’t have an outing at a nice place.”
Warfield, who began playing golf 30 years ago, said she plans to keep supporting the city by continuing to play at Reid Park.
Several golfers were also critical of the county commission’s lack of support for NTPRD. Warfield said many of the golfers who play at the city-owned courses live in the county, not the city.
“It just doesn’t make sense why they’re not on the hook for some of this money,” Warfield.
Local golfer Bill Beach also believes the county should provide more funding to NTPRD.
“It’s disappointing that that wasn’t examined further,” said Beach, the lone resident to attend the work session last week. “I think that’s low-hanging fruit. I think that’s money that should be expected.”
O’Neill said Snyder Park is the tradition of golf in Springfield, but the course has issues such as maintenance and flooding.
He believes the course can be converted and made usable for another group, but the district and city commission can’t take on another project that’s going to be a budgetary item.
O’Neill believes it’s necessary for the city to provide public golf to its residents.
“It controls pricing and it protects the person who can only afford X amount of dollars to play,” O’Neill said.
After playing the course this summer, O’Neill said he was so impressed with the way it came back after it closed in 2012.
“The conditions were evidence alone that we had no intention of closing Snyder Park,” O’Neill said. “We would’ve never brought it back the way that we did.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s a victim,” O’Neill said. “The course is a victim, and we’re going to pay the price for it. There are too many golf holes in Clark County, probably, but I think you’re going to see that adjusted over time.”
Sticking with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has reported on NTPRD’s three-year plan to make golf self-sustaining since it was announced in 2011.
By the numbers
$1.08 million: The amount of money lost by NTPRD’s golf operation over the last three years.
$357,700: NTPRD’s savings if Snyder Park Golf Course were to close.
$356,000: The National Trail Parks and Recreation District’s estimated shortfall for 2014.