WASECA – 1922 was a fairly prominent year for U.S. golf.
That year, a 20-year-old named Gene Sarazen became the first golfer to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year.
Spectators at the U.S. Open were charged admission fees for the first time.
Walter Hagen became the first American-born golfer to win the British Open.
Locally, that year might be more well known as the year that several local residents established a private golf club in Waseca. While the world has changed immeasurably in the last 90 years, Waseca Lakeside Club, located along the north shore of Clear Lake, has remained a staple of the Waseca community.
“The big thing for 90 years is having what people are looking for,” said club treasurer Steve Jaycox. “And I think Lakeside has served that niche well in this community.”
A community asset
For Pro/Club manager Jeff Richards, the key to making Waseca Lakeside Club successful is simple: Community involvement.
The club hosts about a dozen fundraisers for community organizations, associations and charities each year. Tournaments, lessons, meets and scheduled golf activities, such as Couples Golf on Friday evenings, are routine at Lakeside. The swimming pool, which was installed in 2001, provides another source of recreation for children and families.
In fact, family appears to be a common theme at the course.
“I’m seeing more families,” said Jaycox, who’s been treasurer of the club for 36 years. “It’s more family-oriented.”
A sense of family pervades through the membership, too, said Barb Kunz, who’s been a member at the course more than 20 years.
“I think the people that are members out there, that we are somewhat of a family,” Kunz said. “The members all care about Lakeside and care about keeping it a nice course.”
‘A fun course…’
Waseca Lakeside began in 1922 as a nine-hole course and clubhouse that weaved through the trees along Clear Lake’s north shore. The clubhouse was expanded in 1968, and three years later Lakeside became an 18-hole course.
Seth Langager’s job is to make sure each of those holes is in great shape for golfers throughout the season. And as grounds superintendent, he likely knows the course better than anyone.
One of the benefits of Lakeside, he says, is that the course’s narrower fairways and smaller greens allow people of different ages and skill levels to play.
“We are (a) shorter (course), so for those that don’t hit the ball as far, you can still play well here,” said Langager, who’s been superintendent for four years, and spent seven years before that as assistant superintendent. “But yet, for the better golfer, you can play from the back tees and still have a good challenge.”
The course’s scenic backdrop also makes it a beautiful landscape, Kunz said.
“It’s a fun course, and it’s beautiful,” Kunz said. “You’ve got the lake to look at, you’ve got eagles flying over your head, you’ve got deer sometimes over in the woods. It’s beautiful.”
The most recent project the golf course has undertaken — the reshaping of Hole 9 — resulted in one of the most picturesque holes on the course. Located near the clubhouse, the fairway of Hole 9 was reshaped and large water fountains were added to the hole.
“It went from being one of our worst holes to one of our better (holes),” Richards said.
A debt-free club
The economy has affected Waseca Lakeside Club just as it has any other business. Golf memberships are down by about 100 since 2000, the club’s peak year for memberships, Jaycox said.
“We’ve had to tighten our belts, definitely, with the recession,” Jaycox said.
But what’s been beneficial, he said, is that the club hasn’t carried any debt since the ‘80s. When Jaycox became club treasurer in 1976, his goal was to relieve the club's existing debts.
Waseca Lakeside also gives provides its own economic benefit for the area, Jaycox said. The golf club provides 35 jobs to the community.
“Payroll wise, it’s about a $250,000 payroll for the community, and for employment opportunities,” he said.
A 90-year-old course
If community involvement really is the key to creating a successful golf course, as Richards says, then it seems as if Waseca Lakeside Club isn’t slowing down. On Friday, the club hosted the ninth annual Don Eustice Scholarship Committee Golf Fundraiser, which provides scholarships to law enforcement students and to help families with children suffering from traumatic events.
The club’s online calendar is full of other events this month, too.
“It really is a community asset for the town,” Richards said.
A community asset that's been around for the better part of a century.
“When you think about it, there’s not a lot of golf courses that have been around this long,” Langager said. “I think we have a good business plan and a good product that we provide for our members and for golfers that has allowed us to be viable and be open as long as we have."