History of Golf in Winchester
Beeson Park Golf Course
Charles J. Haviza
As I begin
to write the next part of this story, I am looking out my window
at the 12” of snow that has just fallen over the last few
hours. Oh! Good ole Indiana weather.
1930’s progressed, golf was still on the mind of many in
Winchester and these golfers, once again, wanted a course in
Winchester. They assembled on several occasions to discuss what
could be done and even looked for a site for a new golf course;
but to no avail. Then in 1934, events started to unfold that
would impact the destiny of golfing in Winchester.
William and Charles Beeson were two well-respected brothers who
owned and operated the local newspaper for many years. Charles
had also been a State politician. William passed away first,
followed by Charles in April of 1934. When the will was read,
the Beeson’s had donated a farm, just south of the city proper
to the City for use as a park or other recreational site.
Another farm and some downtown property were also being willed
to generate income for the upkeep of this facility. The only
catch was that the City had one calendar year to accept these
properties after which time the land would go to the Fountain
Now here is
where things get interesting! The golfers of Winchester knew
that this would be a prime location for a golf course, as they
had previously looked into this property. However, the citizens
of the south end of Winchester wanted this land used for a Park,
as the people on the north end of town had their own Goodrich
Park. (We all know that Winchester was such a huge metropolis
that two parks were surely needed.) The war between the two
factions continued for almost the entire year’s acceptance
period. Then something happened in November of that year that
helped the golfers. J.P. Clark, who was mentioned earlier as a
driving force with the first Winchester Golf Course, was
re-elected as Mayor. His support had a favorable impact on the
efforts of the golfers. (As I know the current Mayor, and our
Steve Croyle would have done.) With one month to go before
the property would revert to Fountain Park, a deal was reached.
If a swimming pool would be built at Goodrich Park, then the
group of citizens who wanted this land for a park would give up
the fight and let it become a golf course. In February of 1935,
papers were signed and golf was on the way back in Winchester.
A board of
directors was established for the planning of the new golf
course. On the board were J. S. Robison, Francis Simpson, Louie
Mendenhall, and John Macy. Money was tight and the farm and
other properties were not making enough income to cover all
expenses. At this time, John Macy came to the rescue. While at
Wabash College, Mr. Macy had become friends with
William Diddel. Mr. Diddel, from Indianapolis, was a very
fine golfer; having won the Indiana State Amateur Tournament
several times. His love of golf had taken him into the field of
course architecture. Both John Macy and Bill Hunter thought Mr.
Diddle would be perfect for the design and construction
supervision of the new course, as Mr. Diddel had already
designed several nearby courses. William Diddel accepted this
task for the sum of $1500.
problem that had to be overcome was the actual building of the
golf course. This is where the Federal Government comes in.
During the Depression, many projects were initiated to help put
people back to work (does anything here sound familiar?) The
FERA, a branch of the WPA would supply the labor and the city
would provide the needed materials. With the course architect
living in Indianapolis, it was not feasible for him to be on
site every day to oversee this construction. Grandpa Simpson
now steps forward. Grandpa would oversee most of the daily work
and help make sure that the plans for the course were followed.
On April 7, 1935 construction of the Beeson Park Memorial Golf
Course began. Twenty-five FERA workers began the task with the
use of mainly animal power. It took the rest of 1935 and most
of 1936 to get the course into playable condition. Grandpa told
me that he would pay kids 25 cents an hour to pull the crab
grass out of the greens to get them into better condition.
of 1936, the course was in good enough condition for play to
begin. On that opening day, some of the first golfers were
Grandpa Simpson, Louie Mendenhall, Mr. Diddel, John Monks, Bill
Hunter, Ed Perry, and apologies to those who played whose names
I never found out.
The biggest THANK YOU had to go to Francis (Grandpa) Simpson.
He spent many unpaid hours over that year and a half period
making sure that golfers in Winchester would have a place to be
full year of golf (1937) in Winchester would be enjoyed by
many. That year, the WPA allotted $8,632 for the building of
the Beeson Park Clubhouse. The Inter-City was to be played in
Winchester that year, but the course was still not in tournament
condition, so it was moved to Greenville. On September 17 of
that year, was the first mention of a local tournament at Beeson
Park. The three men, who were instrumental in my gaining of
this knowledge, were also big in the first City Golf
Tournament. Grandpa Simpson, Louie Mendenhall, and John
all qualified for the Championship Flight.
Louie in the first round and then Grandpa and John Monks ended
up meeting in the final match. John was victorious and became
the winner of the first tournament ever held at the Beeson Park
Golf Pro for the new course was not hired until 1939. His name
was Tom Switzer. Cleo Hutchison ran the course in 1940 and
1941. Charles Bullock was in charge in 1942. During the war
years of 1942-1946, Ted Orebaugh and the Park Board were
responsible for the running of the course. Fred Brandt was
hired as the golf pro in 1947 and stayed through 1951. Charley
Veal was hired and was there through 1955. Then came Gene
Stiles, who was the pro from 1956 through 1962 (part of our
caddie days). Local boy Alan White (who was by far the best
golfer of the all of the pros ever hired) was there from 1963
graduation year of 1967. Seb Reyenga held the reigns from 1968
through 1974. Then came Jerry Macke from 1975 though 1980. Ray
Weizycki and his son held the job from 1980 through 1985.
DeWayne Flynn was there for the 50th year of Beeson
Park in 1986 through 1989. This was when I published my small
book called “A History of Golf in Winchester, Indiana.
fall meeting in 1981 with Grandpa Simpson through 1985, I spent
many hours at my Apple IIE (you guys remember these machines,
don’t you?). I had pages of handwritten notes, copies of
newspaper clippings, tape recordings that Louie had made for me
that I was trying to get onto all of those floppy disks that
were needed at the time. I did a lot of true cutting and
pasting with real scissors and glue. With the help of my wife
Sally and her many hours of proofreading the very poor quality
copies that came out of those ribbon printers, I thought that I
finally had enough information to put this out to the local
golfers. I found a small, private printing business in Union
City that was just trying to get started and had a few dozen
copies of this history printed up. (Remember that poor school
teachers could not afford anything elaborate and this
publication certainly filled that bill.) The rest, as they say,
same time, I started spending more time at Hickory Hills Golf
Course in Farmland. Longtime friend and past roommate, Dave
Puckett, along with wife Roberta, had purchased the course from
owner Ralph Griffith. Upon retiring from education in 2005, I
went to work for Dave, who had just purchased the Portland Golf
Club. I have been there for the past five years. I am in
charge of the
PGC web site, but I can not hold a candle to Jill and her
crew with the work they do for the class of 1967.
I have had
the pleasure of sharing this information with many of the social
organizations in both Winchester and Union City over the past 25
years. This summer, I will be donating most of the items I got
from Louie to the Winchester Golf Club. This is where it should
be displayed. The movie that I got from Louie will be donated
Randolph County Historical Society, after I have a DVD
Winchester Golf Club
Winchester would not be where it is today if not for the
foresight and dedication of Mr. Errol Klem. Errol really
stepped forward, at a very crucial time, to help secure the
future of golf in Winchester and take the golf course and the
pros to the next level. Everything that Errol does is first
class. The new
Golf Club is no exception.
As the mid
1980’s rolled around, golf in America was booming. However, the
Beeson Golf Course was lagging behind the times, mainly due to
its financial health. It is very hard for a city government to
adequately fund a municipal golf course and this was the case
with Beeson. To help run the finances and workings of the golf
course, a Golf Course Park Board was established in 1986. This
was a step in the right direction, to have a group dedicated to
keeping the golf course moving forward. However, finances
continued to haunt the facility and something else had to be
came to the rescue. Errol Klem is a self made successful
businessman. Errol is also an avid golfer and did not want to
see Winchester lose the course or not be able to keep it viable
and current. In 1989, Errol negotiated to lease the original 9
holes from the city with the understanding that he would be
adding another 9 holes and eventually own the entire golf
course. Ed Perry and Jim Passmore were very instrumental in
helping Errol lease and eventually purchase the Beeson land so
that his idea could progress. His original deal was to lease
the 9 holes for 25 years at $4000 per year. Grandpa Simpson
and Bill Hunter and others had previously made an attempt to get
more land to the south of the original 9 holes, but without
success. Jr. Byrum had purchased the land and would not sell.
However, in 1988, Errol made a deal with Jr. to buy the land to
the south and Errol also wanted the land to the east. Jr.
agreed to sell Errol the land to the south but not to the east.
A young fellow by the name of Dewayne Flynn was the golf pro
during this time period. Dewayne and Lynn Houser meet while he
was in Winchester and after his work in Winchester, they moved
on together. This was basically the end to the Beeson Park Golf
Course era and the Winchester Golf Club was born.
no time in making plans for the new nine holes that also
included a housing addition around the course. The Willows
addition was developed in 1994 and sold quickly. Work began on
course and took two years to complete. The new nine holes
opened in 1991 with a new routing of the holes due a beautiful
new club house that was built south of the original nine holes.
The new lane that led back to the clubhouse was appropriately
named “Simpson Drive.”
Membership at the course was increasing nicely and golf in
Winchester was really heading in the right direction. If you
have not been in Winchester for a while, you would not believe
how this area has developed.
was hired in 1990 to be the new pro and remained in that
position through 1995. Brad then moved on and Errol was able to
hire a fine young man for the head pro job, Mark Todd. Business
was so good that in 1999 an assistant pro was hired, Eric Mikels.
Both Mark and Eric are still there today and are very fine young
men who have added a lot to the success of the Winchester Golf
But in the
true style of Errol, he was not done yet. Errol was able to
purchase the land to the east and built yet another 9 holes that
opened in 2001. Now with three nine holes to play, different
combinations of playing could occur. Each of the nine holes was
named so people knew where to start. The original nine holes
remained the “Beeson” nine, the course through the houses is the
“Willow” nine, and the newest nine holes was named, very
appropriately, the “Pony” nine. Errol is currently working with
Mark and Eric concerning the future ownership of the Winchester
Golf Club. Whatever happens, the people in the Winchester and
surrounding areas owe Errol Klem a great big THANK YOU for
keeping golf alive, with a beautiful course in Winchester.
ago, when I was fishing at Greg’s gravel pit or spending time
with Greg on the farm, I had no idea how this area would become
part of my future. I am sure we all have stories like this.
Thanks for reading about mine.