Minneapolis Golf Coaches Fear Future With Hiawatha's Closing

Minneapolis Golf Coaches Fear Future With Hiawatha's Closing Photo: KSTP

August 11, 2017 06:05 PM

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board's decision this week to reduce groundwater pumping at the Hiawatha Golf Club means the golf course will close at the end of the 2019 season.

It's a decision that has upset many golfers who don't want to lose the 18-hole course in South Minneapolis, which first opened in 1934.

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But the impact could be particularly felt by high school teams that call the course home. 

Carol Allery, the head boys and girls golf coach at Minneapolis South, said the sport could face an uncertain future at the school without nearby Hiawatha there.

"I'm pretty nervous about what's going to happen with our program," Allery said. "I think this might make it hard to maintain our teams. Where do we go now? Fort Snelling is the next closest course. But getting out there is going to be an issue. We can get down to Hiawatha in five minutes."

Allery said schools like Minneapolis Southwest, Minneapolis Washburn, Minneapolis Roosevelt and Minnehaha Academy also use the course for practice and meets.

"Every night we're over there during the season, there are three or four other schools out there too," Allery said. "Hiawatha is just a great setup for our kids. We have the chipping and putting greens. And we have 18 holes right there. There's so much room for teaching. We couldn't find that someplace else.

"But more than that, with things like the First Tee Program they have there, our kids can spend their summers golfing at a course nearby. They can't always get out to Fort Snelling."

Allery's program had just five boys and seven girls in grades 9-12 last spring. But the Tigers were able to add a seventh grader from Seward to the varsity - something Allery said would not be possible if they have to get everyone out to Fort Snelling for practice.

Bo Dolphin,  the head boys and girls coach at Minneapolis Southwest, said the Lakers use Hiawatha as well. And it would be difficult to make things work if it wasn't there.

"I really think it will put a nail in the coffin of golf here," Dolphin said. "We do all our training at Hiawatha. You have the driving range and putting green there. If you eliminate that, you push out people who are beginning golfers, because you're going to have to throw everybody out on a regulation course.

"There won't be that room for teaching."

Dolphin's numbers last season were large - 26 girls and 46 boys in grades 9-12 (there was one eighth-grader). And being at Hiawatha made that workable.

"We could split off and have 16 out on the golf course while the rest are doing training exercises," Dolphin said. "That's not possible anywhere else.

"Hiawatha has the only driving range in South Minneapolis. If we want to get up to Columbia (Golf Club), it's like an hour drive in traffic through downtown Minneapolis."

Mike Iacarella, the boys and girls coach at Minneapolis Edison, said his teams don't use Hiawatha as their home course, but not having it there will be felt by everyone in the city.

"It's really going to hamper Minneapolis golf," he said. "It's going to make it tougher for teams to find practices and schedule meets. That's going to have an impact on everybody."

Credits

Frank Rajkowski

Copyright 2017 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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