Fifty Three years ago, the Santiam Golf Course was barely a dream. A group of seven men from the Sublimity, Aumsville and Stayton communities were instrumental in transforming their vision of a community golf course into a reality. These men wanted the golf facility to provide good golf, fun and entertainment for the families and friends of the area and to always remain affordable in price. In the meantime, inquiries to the Chamber of Commerce regarding golf facilities in the immediate area were becoming more frequent. Fortunately, a landowner of approximately 110 acres, Norm Peak, posted his land for sale. And after some negotiations, a deal was struck and arrangements to purchase the land were under way. Bill Gehlen, an attorney, filed the necessary papers with the Oregon Secretary of State recording Santiam Golf Club as a non-profit corporation, thus becoming Santiam Golf Club, Inc. Shares of stock at $257, plus 40 hours of labor, were offered to those closest to the project. After that, shares were sold at approximately $350 per share with the same 40 hours of donated labor attached as a condition of share purchase price.
On March 4, 1957, these seven founders: A.J. Frank, Roy Phillipi, William Gehlen, John D. Davis, Walter D. Miller,Harmon Drushella and M. L. Morey, all golfers, were recorded as the first directors of the new corporation they had founded and directed. Although, originally, the Santiam Golf Club board consisted of 12 members, this number created too much confusion and eventually the board membership was lowered to seven members.
The land was covered with brush and small trees. The designer of the course, Fred Federspiel, a golf architect, along with a couple of the founders, walked the land laying out the placement of the tees and greens according to the course blueprint.
Bill Rauscher, a nearby neighbor, was hired to use his small “Cat” with a heavy disc to break up the soil and tear up roots. Stockholders of the new organization formed a human line across the fairways to pick up sticks and roots, which they moved down the line into a pile and later burned. They did this on all fairways of the original nine. Most of this work was done evenings after the regular workday.
Rauscher used his small Cat to push soil together to form the basic greens and tees. Then teams of five or six men per green with shovels were assigned to form final shapes. The greens surfaces were spaded to the depth of the shovel and to facilitate cup placements in the finished greens all rocks were removed down to the size of pea gravel.
The work went along throughout the summer. In or about September, Rauscher formed the newly cleared fairways and roughs. The grass seed was sown on all the worked surfaces and the greens were ready for play the forthcoming spring!
While the course was being prepared, the first clubhouse was being built. Luther Nokelby, with the help of other stockholders, was in charge of construction. The building consisted of a pro shop, storage area, small kitchen, coffee bar and clubroom. Sometime after the first nine opened a dining room named the Sandtrap was added.
In the early 1960s, the board approved the expansion of the course to eighteen holes. To finance the cost of the new nine, a loan of $40,000 was secured from First National Bank of Oregon.
George Shafer, the first greenskeeper, and board President Ralph Lulay, along with architect, Federspiel, walked the grounds for the new nine marking the placement of the new tees and greens. The brush was beaten down with Rauscher’s heavy disc to begin clearing the terrain. A large Cat and scraper were brought in to do the earth moving. The ground was covered with rocks, so the first process was to pick up rocks mechanically and deposit them under the greens to be built. The soil that was to form the greens was dug up from a couple of deep ditches which earlier had been dug to help prevent water from running across the fairways. Topsoil was also obtained from land near the highway. Shafer, who closely monitored the forming of the greens was also instrumental in shaping the lake along the 5th fairway, this lake ultimately named “Lake George”. Some fairways were renumbered and the new holes became predominantly the front nine. The eighteen-hole course was amazingly ready for play the following summer!
Several years later, in February 1967, as recommended by the accounting firm of Arthur Young & Co., the articles of incorporation were amended to establish the corporation as a “for profit” company. In the following May, the golf club purchased 17 adjoining acres from Clarence Zuber. Two years later, in 1970, a liquor license was acquired.
The clubhouse has gone through several alterations and changes in cuisine. Following a clubhouse fire in 1980, Kay Kelly built a larger and more adequate clubhouse and restaurant. The first new restaurant managers were Kent Hazelwood and Paul Hartwell. The restaurant was named the Ford Garage. This was followed by Mara’s (an Italian cuisine), then LaEstrellita’s Mexican Restaurant, and is currently The Santiam Steak House. The facility is now complete with a seating capacity of 180; including a sunroom and patio area catering to tournaments, special parties, banquets and wedding receptions.
There have been many improvements in recent years. All the greens have been re-modeled to USGA standards. Computerized irrigation has since been strategically installed. A new, large maintenance building, cart shed and many other on-course improvements, including concrete and/or paved cart paths along all fairways have added to our movement into the 21st century. . Many improvements on the second nine were completed with the use of heavy equipment donated by Frank Lumber Co., Lulay Bros. Lumber Co., Roy Philippi, “Dutch” Deetz and others. Stockholders have contributed many hours of volunteer labor.
The pro-shop is now fully-equipped, sporting the latest golf merchandise and attire. For several years, Jack White, the first golf pro, oversaw the facility. Jack Coppedge, the 6th Santiam Golf Club professional held the position for many years until his death in 1997. Sporadic remodeling continues and the building has undergone many major interior improvements and has recently been crowned with a new roof. The driving range and the parking lot have been expanded to facilitate tournament crowds.
The corporation, owned by 306 plus stockholders, holds its annual meeting in the company banquet room, whereas in compliance with the company by-laws, an incumbent director whose 3-year term is up, is either voted back in by the stockholders or is succeeded by a new director to hold sacred the voice and interests of the stockholders and the corporation and to not lose sight of the original dream of the founding fathers.
The founding fathers would be so proud to see that the beautiful Santiam Golf Club, Inc., has flourished to 21st century standards and that their vision of an affordable, family-oriented entertainment facility continues to be upheld to this day!
by Sheri Stanley
Thanks to Ralph Lulay who provided information regarding this history, and his daughter, Danita, who assisted in sorting and compiling facts and information for this article.