Our Views: Two golf courses add to allure of Janesville

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

If it's true that the amenities offered to residents help define a community, then having not one but two municipal golf courses puts Janesville above par.

Golfers and nongolfers alike should celebrate as Riverside Golf Course marks its 90th anniversary this week and Blackhawk Golf Course hits its 50th. Even if you don't enjoy chasing little white balls, you should appreciate that the courses add green space and beauty to this City of Parks.

The two courses complement each other. At 18 holes, Riverside not only hosts local tournaments for men, women and youths but also the annual Ray Fischer State Medal Play Championship, a prestigious amateur event. Winners have included Professional Golfers' Association players Steve Stricker and Skip Kendall. Wisconsinites who know and love golf often rave about Riverside and consider it among the state's best municipal courses. In contrast, Blackhawk offers nine holes and shorter fairways that better serve novices and golfers with higher handicaps. This week, it hosted a tournament for ages 11 and 12.

The courses offer quality recreation in our own backyards at fees that can be lower than what many area golf clubs charge.

Sure, taxpayers subsidize operations as the city invests in equipment and capital improvements. For example, an irrigation system installed at Riverside a decade ago improved the fairways and rough.

Crown Golf Properties managed and operated the courses for years, but after other area courses opened and then in 2008 the economy turned south, the company started losing money. KemperSports, based in Northbrook, Illinois, took over in 2011. Steve Loomis, head professional and general manager of the courses for KemperSports, says the company had a three-year goal of breaking even but fell short by less than $5,000 last year. The goal is to break even this year, and the courses are on pace, Loomis told Sports Editor Eric Schmoldt in Thursday's Gazette.

“We feel happy with where we're at,” Loomis added.

Contrast that to Madison's public golf courses. Tuesday the Wisconsin State Journal reported the four courses in 2013 fell nearly a half-million dollars short of revenue projections.

Golfers appreciate the management of Janesville's courses and KemperSports' focus on details.

“The staff has done a great job of trying to create a better experience, and I think the golf courses have been in great shape,” Loomis told Schmoldt.

Long forgotten is how the flood of 2008 left a muddy pond across Blackhawk's No. 1 fairway and made a swamp of the No. 8 fairway.

Some golfers believe Riverside would rake in more revenue with a more attractive clubhouse better equipped to feed and cater to big crowds. City finances, however, prevent that, and Riverside's clubhouse isn't unlike those at many municipal courses. Besides, a newer deck within view of Riverside's 18th green entices golfers to relax and enjoy meals and beverages.

Together, Riverside and Blackhawk help lure the sort of young professional talent that companies will grow more desperate to attract as our population ages.

As the courses mark their anniversaries, let's hope they remain crown jewels of Janesville for many decades to come.

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