Riverside, Blackhawk golf courses celebrate anniversaries

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Eric Schmoldt
Thursday, July 17, 2014

The crowd at Friday's Anniversary Bash at Riverside Golf Course might not match that of the club's grand opening, but Steve Loomis and company won't forget the band.

With both of the city's municipal courses celebrating important anniversaries, Riverside will host an event that begins at 6 p.m.

Riverside, the city's 18-hole course, turned 90 years old Tuesday. Blackhawk, a nine-hole course, celebrates its 50th birthday today. Both courses have been operated by Northbrook, Illinois-based KemperSports since 2011.

“In the past four years of being here, we've maybe just paid a little more attention to the minor details,” said Steve Loomis, the head professional and general manager of the courses. “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.

“(To have both courses) is really great, because it allows us to do a lot of different things with programming. A lot of times you don't the ability to get some novice golfers or higher-handicap golfers on a course that's a little bit more accessible like Blackhawk is.”

The July 16, 1924, edition of The Gazette estimated the attendance of Riverside's grand opening at nearly 8,000. Roughly 30 golfers played the course, and the event included a picnic and dance that ran until midnight.

The lone hiccup was a miscommunication between organizers and the Janesville High School band. It left the band without a ride and unable to play.

That won't be the case Friday, as local band “Go Ask Joe” plays at Riverside from 7-9:30 p.m. Friday's birthday bash will also include food and drink specials and a pair of contests—a 50-foot putt and a 90-yard closest to the pin—with a complimentary 2015 annual pass awarded to the winners.

“It will be a fun celebration,” Loomis said. “There've been a lot of great stories and a lot of residents in the community coming out and sharing photos that they have of the old layouts and things of that nature.”

Riverside hosts several annual tournaments, including the Rock County Women's Championship and the Janesville Optimist Junior City Championship earlier this week. It will host one round of the men's city tournament later this month.

The crown jewel is the annual Ray Fischer State Medal Play Championship the last weekend in June. Previous winners include Steve Stricker and Skip Kendall.

Blackhawk, with its par-34 layout tucked between Palmer Park, Rotary Gardens and Kiwanis Pond, hosted the 11- and 12-year-old junior golfers this week.

On the day of Blackhawks' grand opening, The Gazette stated that Leon Feingold was the first cash customer, and city council president O.D. Miller hit the first tee shot. Then a par-36, Dave Field shot a 3-under 33 for the best round on the first day.

The city negotiated a deal with KemperSports starting in 2011 following years of declining rounds at the two courses. Those declines were partially attributed to a weakened economy as well as the opening of a couple of new courses in Janesville and its surrounding area.

Loomis said he and KemperSports aren't focused on comparing numbers prior to their start in 2011 but that they nearly met their three-year goal last year and are on pace to make the city's 2014 goal of breaking even in operations costs.

“We've seen a steady decline in our operational expenses, as far as a deficit,” Loomis said. “Our goal when we came onboard here was to break even in operations after Year Three, which would have been last year. We lost just under $5,000. The city's goal was for us to break even after this year, which is certainly our goal as well, and we're on pace.

“It's hard to compare back, but we feel happy with where we're at. We're always striving to do better. Obviously the main thing is making sure we do what the city wants, because the city is our client, along with every taxpayer that comes out here and plays golf.”

Ultimately, the goal is to make sure the birthday parties continue at Janesville's two city courses.

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