This was really a week to remember! My wife had three days of work related meetings in Pierre and I was chosen to assist by chauffeuring, toting bags, and vigilant to step and fetch as required.
I have learned to enjoy this fate my life has come to know. In return, however, I did say to her that it would be a great opportunity to visit a few golf courses while she absorbed the programs. “Where are you visiting?” she asked. The question was asked in a manner of envy that she couldn’t come along.
My reply was I’d give Sutton Bay a try Tuesday morning after stopping by the Pierre Golf Course and Lake Waggoner Golf Course on the way home Wednesday. I reminded her that we would make our planned trip to The Prairie Club south of Valentine Friday.
Both of us thought the week was a busy one for both of us. I recall thinking how much I appreciated the opportunity to write a column for the Rapid City Journal and be led to visit golf courses throughout the region while talking golf to the folks at these interesting places.
I found the Pierre course in beautiful condition, however the parking lot was near capacity with vehicles sporting signage saying, “Go Tigers” or “Go Arrows."
I realized it was high school state tournament time and perhaps I would try again the following morning if my other duties didn’t interfere. I headed north to see a golf facility that was new to my eyes.
Sutton Bay is more than a little drive up the east side of Lake Oahe. I didn’t make it known to the resort management my hope to visit the property, but after all I’m just a country boy and sometimes folks will give you a pass.
Not this time. Sorry, this spread is private and open for members only.
The staff member that shared this message was kind and generous in his demeanor, but with a firm smile. I was directed to several signs that backed up my consequence. I did wonder if the multitude of pheasants that occupied the road ditch and corn field of the entrance roadway had membership.
The main lodge sat atop the highest knob on the Missouri River Breaks overlooking Sutton Bay. I have hunted geese south of Chamberlain around many tall “breaks." I can’t recall any sight so majestic.
I missed the Hillsview Golf Course in Pierre the next morning as my attention was directed to my wife and her meetings. One the way returning to Rapid City we did stop by the Lake Waggoner Golf Course. It is just a mile or so out of Phillip and it is as lush as any golf course we have seen this year. That includes Rocky Knolls in Custer.
We found the golf house closed and only one person playing golf. Dressed in short sleeves and playing alone he was playing more a couple golf balls. His name was Duke Westerberg. His parents are Roger and the former Kay Westby of Mitchell, where my wife and I were behind them in school.
Kay was the homecoming queen for Mitchell High School and was knock down gorgeous, however Roger was typical in the looks department. I would point out that all the Mitchell girls were better than just good looking.
Interesting specifics we learned from the Larry Niederwordor who works on the course had to do with the course record. When I asked about the course record I thought he said, “It’s 13 and I established it this year."
However, he cleared my confusion telling us he had caught 13 skunks this golf season and that number could increase. Larry and Duke introduced us to a kindly gentleman, Charlie Ekstrom. He was one of the “founding fathers” of LWGC.
Our final visit was on Friday. This time we headed east and then south to Valentine, Nebraska, to The Prairie Club. This iconic golf facility is home to two 18-hole golf courses and a nine-hole “horse” golf course.
We were flabbergasted with the sight as we drove up the rise and around a curve in the road, because we were treated to a sight of graciousness, warmth and hospitality.
Bunk houses and a stately clubhouse adorn the landscape. The interior of the lodge was an extension of the experience of welcome and pleasure that marked the exterior.
Explaining our mission to Mandy and Andi who had greeted us from behind the front desk our tour began. The rain decided for us that we couldn’t inspect the golf courses, but we knew from the first impression we received it would have been more of the same.
I have just one more matter to share with you. On I-90 we stopped a few minutes at a rest stop. I returned an email message from Chris Huber by making a phone call. He is currently the acting editor of the Rapid City Journal following the staff change a few weeks ago. He explained that the former editor, Bart Pfankuch, was no longer with the newspaper and the golf column, Chris read religiously, would also be ending for economic reasons.
This little piece of work has given me, my wife, and Li’L Blue (my wife’s car) a lot of fun. I am very thankful to the Journal and its staff members for helping a golf professional do what The Professional Golfers’ Association of America didn’t train us to do.
Equally kind were the many people who contributed topics to write about and the readers who attempted to figure out what I was trying to say. I thank those of you who used the column to line their bird cage each week.
Next to last, I want to expressly acknowledge and thank Bart Pfankuch. He explicitly, but kindly doubted I could write a weekly column of any length – especially one of a 1,000 words. He offered me good luck wishes and his best hope for success.
At last, my wife has read each column. Out loud and to me in an unrelenting effort to clarify my thoughts, correct spelling, and adjust grammar. Thank you dear. She has been equally responsible for any successes (I’ll take the hit for all failures). Thank you all for your time one last time.
NOBLE ON GOLF INSTRUCTION
First, find a golf professional you like. Second, listen to her or him. Finally, continue with your pro and practice, practice, practice. Hard work wins.