Mill Creek unveils overhauled bunkers


By TODD FRANKO

tfranko@vindy.com

BOARDMAN

Jack Reese has been teeing off at Mill Creek Golf Course for two-thirds of the course’s 90 years.

But his tee shot on Monday might have been his most significant. He striped it 190-or-so yards down the middle off the No. 1 tee at the South Course.

“I like getting to tee off first at my country club,” laughed Reese, who thinks it’s his 65th year playing at Mill.

The South Course had a special opening for play Monday after being closed for a $250,000 overhaul of the sand bunkers. Monday was the first day of play after the reconstruction.

“From the moment players step onto the tee, aesthetically, the bunkers are more visually pleasing,” PGA Director of Golf Brian Tolnar said. “From a playing perspective, the bunkers are a lot more user-friendly with more consistency to get out of them.”

The 36 rebuilt South bunkers are the first known overhaul of the items since the Don Ross-designed 36-hole course opened 90 years ago, Tolnar said. A Ross design makes special use of bunkers for challenge. The aged bunker conditions had made many often unplayable.

Work started Monday on the 42 North Course bunkers. One set of nine holes will be closed at a time on the north side while work continues. All work will be done by June 1.

The redesign of the bunkers will actually make routine maintenance of the bunkers easier — saving about two hours per day in manpower.

In addition to the bunkers, other Mill Creek enhancements include work on the driving range, hole signs, new motor and pull carts and a redesigned pro shop. There will be more amenities added in 2019.

“From the moment you pull in off U.S. 224, it’s exciting times for the metroparks,” Tolnar said.

Aaron Young, Mill Creek MetroParks Executive Director, said the bunkers launch a big year for the entire operations.

“This is a big year for the parks,” he said. “A lot of the projects were finished in 2017 right before the weather changed, so not a lot of park visitors were able to see those changes. Today, with the unveiling of the bunkers, you’ll be able to see the beginning of 2018 work, too.”

Investing in golf this way is key for the district, he said.

“Golf is an important part of what we have going on,” Young said. “It generates over $1 million worth of revenue. It’s a return on investment we anticipate to see over the next 90 years.”

Reese was joined by playing partner Bob Banks as the first two to play the South Course.

Banks remembers playing Mill Creek as a kid, and they would hunt for lost balls because could not afford to buy any. His opening tee shot was not hard to find down the middle of the fairway like his partner, Reese.

“Golf teaches you discipline,” Reese said. “Some of the greatest people you can ever spend time with you meet on the golf course.”

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