Evanston celebrates golf progress with new after-school program

Amanda Gilbert, Reporter

It was not just schools celebrating their students’ successes this weekend as their years came to an end.

The Evanston Wilmette Community Golf Course Association honored students who participated in new, after-school golf programs at a celebration and clinic Friday.

More than 20 students participated in the programs, which are held at Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St.; the McGaw YMCA, 1000 Grove St.; and Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St. The programs began in April and are designed to teach golf to children with little experience.

The city partnered with the golf association to host the event and recognized the progress participants made over the past month. Students demonstrated their shots and played games on the 18-hole course, which runs along the North Shore Channel.

Course manager Tom Hotchkiss said he was happy residents could see the strong partnership the city and the golf association have developed this year. Unpaid water bills had caused tension between the association and city officials, he said.

“Things got a little shaky,” Hotchkiss said. “I think city officials were worried they would have to start paying for the bills that weren’t being paid.”

The association recently elected a new board with members who live close to the course. Hotchkiss said the new board includes a lot of people who are passionate about seeing the golf course succeed.

“Now the bills are being paid and the relationship is improving all the time,” he said.

Hotchkiss said Friday’s event showed the success of the first spring youth program. Participants practiced chipping and putting in between meeting other golfers. Students were given certificates, rule books and golf balls for completing the program. They also received two free rounds that can be used later in the season.

“We’d really like kids to come to the course more,” Hotchkiss said. “The program teaches more than just golf. It also involves etiquette.”

Golf Shop manager Casey Ryan said the golf community seems to be gaining a stronger presence in the city. When the economy took a hit a few years ago, golfing was not a priority for most people in Illinois, he said.

“It is definitely bouncing back, which is important,” Ryan said. “You learn a lot about yourself when you play golf. It shows integrity and honor. That’s what the game of golf is built on.”

Hotchkiss said the Evanston Wilmette Community Golf Course is unique in that it covers two towns and is one of the only courses without a fence around it. People can ride their bikes around it or walk their dogs through it, he said.

“We don’t want to lose this gem that has been around for over 90 years,” Hotchkiss said.