Junior Golf Assoc. to build ‘Wee Course’ at Ingersoll

In the midst of a massive clean-up effort following the July 5 windstorm that resulted in a devastating loss of 300 mature trees, a silver lining appeared at the July 8 Junior Golf Association’s Board of Commissioners meeting.

The Junior Golf Association of Greater Rockford announced that the fund-raising goals set by commissioners two years ago had been more than met. Construction of the “Wee Course” at Ingersoll Golf Course is beginning so the beginner golf-learning center may open for the 2004 season.

“The Board of Commissioners directed Park District staff to seek alternative revenue sources to fund programs and operations, and provide for disadvantaged youth as a focus,” explained Dan Gundrum, senior manager of Recreation Facilities. “This project began two years ago, on Dec. 11, 2001, when the Junior Golf Association approached the board of the Rockford Park District with a letter of understanding that if the Association was able to raise the funds necessary to construct the facility, including two years of program funding and maintenance costs, that the District would accept the donation and build the new expanded learning center at Ingersoll Golf Course. They have managed to meet those ambitious fund-raising goals and have raised $542,480 in donations and pledges, as they had promised.”

James Keeling, a member of the Rockford Park District Foundation, has spearheaded the volunteer effort to build the Wee Course for beginner golf development at Ingersoll Golf Course. In his update to the Board of Commissioners, Keeling outlined the Junior Golf Association’s plans to not only raise the final $18,000 before 2005, but to raise program and maintenance funds for 2006 and beyond. “We are sensitive to the financial straits the park district is in,” said Keeling. “They really can’t be expected to take on new projects without being self-sustaining, and all donations need to come with maintenance and program support. We found hundreds of golfers who were willing to enthusiastically support this learning center with gifts of $2,000 and become Millennium Members. We found several very generous benefactors to provide naming opportunities through sizeable donations. It’s very heartening to know that golf has meant so much to so many people in our community that they are willing to support this project and bring kids, especially underprivileged youth, to learn the great game of golf, a game that can be enjoyed and played throughout a lifetime. Golf teaches kids to be honest and ethical, to challenge yourself to play each hole better than the last time. We want to keep our golf courses a viable asset in many years to come, and the way to do that is keep introducing young people to the game and teach them skills to keep improving,” explained Keeling.

In addition to individual donations, which are still being accepted, several foundations have been contacted and presentations secured for later this month. There will be an annual golf playday, ProAm contributions on an annual basis, and park district staff will continue to seek program grants.

Construction has now begun, with a grand opening expected in early June of 2004, after two grass-growing seasons.

“This great news comes at a time we could use something positive for the west side of Rockford,” stated Commissioner Nate Martin at the commissioners’ meeting. “The storm just devastated the beautiful trees out at Ingersoll; we lost about 300 of them in the wind. Now we have something exciting to look forward to as we re-forest and look to the future of this wonderful golf facility.”

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