Positive reviews for Jaycee makeover

Sunday, June 13, 2010
Matt Kennard hits off the 10th tee box Friday at the Cape Girardeau Jaycee Municipal Golf Course. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynchsemissourian.com)

It may have been a dubious 15 minutes of golf glory, but Aaron Collier was not about to turn it down.

Collier and his two playing partners just had completed the first round of golf Friday morning on the newly renovated Cape Jaycee Municipal Golf Course, which Collier traversed in 96 strokes.

"Actually, you might want to jot this down -- I've got the course record as of right now," Collier joked, drawing laughter from Dwight Gates and his son Ben.

The group was in a jovial mood. They had secured the first tee time available -- 7 a.m. -- and the distinction of being the first golfers to test their skills after the $1 million renovation.

The course was open for the first time after a nearly 12-month renovation, and area golfers were out in force, reacquainting themselves with the city's lone golf course as if it was a long-lost friend -- one who had shed about 100 pounds and undergone an extreme makeover.

Josh Reeves putts on the fifth green as Dan Reed watches Friday. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynchsemissourian.com)

The makeover artists were golf architect Arthur Schaupeter, Oliphant Golf Inc., which constructed the greens and installed a new irrigation system, and the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department, which did the remainder of the work. Aside from becoming an 18-hole facility, it was the biggest change since Jaycee opened as a nine-hole course in 1955.

"We were ready. We were up early this morning," Ben Gates said.

An iffy forecast was the only negative looming for the opening day, but rain never developed.

"Whether it rained or not, we was going to play." Dwight Gates said with a laugh.

What the group found, as well as a steady stream of golfers to follow, were expansive, undulating bent grass greens in carpetlike condition.

Golfers get back on the cart path after hitting off the 13th tee Friday at the Cape Girardeau Jaycee Municipal Golf Course. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynchsemissourian.com)

"It's a lot more fun putting on the greens because they have different levels and every green is a lot more complicated, but I think a lot more fun," Ben Gates said.

The renovation replaced the Bermuda greens, expanding the average size by 50 percent. Greens on Nos. 1, 4 and 5 were lowered noticeably to make them more receptive to incoming shots, while moderate to severe undulation was added to all the greens.

"I think the ones they lowered, it helped out," said Dwight Gates, who said he waited in a line at A.C. Brase Arena to schedule a tee time when they became available 8 a.m. Monday. "The new fairways just need a little more time to grow. The grass needs to grow a little bit. Other than that, it's great. Awesome."

The group had been playing other courses, including Bent Creek in Jackson.

"I couldn't wait for it to open," said Collier, a member at Jaycee. "I got tired of paying everywhere. It was nice, a big improvement. I can't say much for the fairways, but the greens are nice."

John Gilmer chips onto the 12th green as Richard Mitchem tends the pin Friday.

Collier was referring to the fairways on the rerouted holes on the back nine, which covered Nos. 11 to 15. Bermuda grass was sprigged last summer on those fairways and is expected to improve as hotter weather arrives.

As for Collier's "course record," it was gone before he could exit the parking lot, as Jamie Sissom, playing in the foursome behind, shot an 82.

"There's no comparison," said Sissom of the new look. "The greens are perfect. There's no traffic on them yet.

"The back nine is a lot different. The front, other than the greens, is pretty much the same. There's a few longer shots on some holes."

One hole on the front that had a different appearance was No. 4. The stand of trees that lined the left side of the fairway was removed, which didn't bring tears to the eyes of Sissom.

"I'm all for taking trees off a golf course," Sissom deadpanned, drawing laughter from his playing partners.

John Trimble, a playing partner of Sissom's, gave a reluctant thumbs up to the changes.

"I was against the changes," Trimble said. "Now that I've played, these greens are really, really nice. But I'm still against it."

In addition to the changes, Trimble was opposed to having to pay $4 more per round. Green fees are $16 on weekdays and $18 on weekends. A cart, which is optional, remains at $12.

"We've been playing all these other courses, and that's been fun," Trimble said. "I've been a member here for more than 20 years, and it's actually been nice to take a break and play some of these other courses in the area and come back to a changed course. It's about the same, and it's a little different. But the greens are just fabulous."

Tom Higgins, who also played in the group, said he was happy to have year-round grass on the greens, instead of the seasonal Bermuda greens that were taken out of play during the winter months in favor of temporary greens.

"We were used to having to wait to June until the greens got nice," Higgins said. "Where the real appreciation will be is in late November into March, where before it was unplayable, and now it will be [playable]."

Richard Davis-Boren was making the turn around noon and said the conditions were making it easier to get up and down on the greens. He said his score was a couple strokes lower than usual.

"The greens are in pristine shape," Davis-Boren said. "I've never seen them ever this good out here. These greens can go against Bent Creek or anywhere else that is in the area right now."

Keith Sander and Steve Wells played in the third group of the day and came away impressed.

"It's a great change," Wells said. "The old course needed some updating and they really did a good job."

Sander has been a member for several years and seemed more than happy to do away with the small, crowned greens.

"They were so elevated, you couldn't keep a ball on. Now it's fun," Sander said. "If they spent a million, it was worth every penny. I think it's just fantastic. It's a lot, lot nicer. I think the public is going to love it."

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Jeff Breer
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