Poplar Golf Course turns 50Saturday’s celebration includes free golf, free food and door prizes
By: By Paul Stein, For The Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
POPLAR — For 50 years the game of golf has been played, loved and hated at the Poplar Golf Course. Golf is a game that often tries your ability as well as patience. But, once bitten by the golf bug, you will always come back.
With a family friendly atmosphere and excellent facilities, the PGC makes it easy to come back. The Brill family of Maple is an example of the enjoyment and challenge the Poplar Golf Course offers.
“Your play is relaxed, with no pressure from other golfers that you may experience at other courses,” Becky Brill said of playing at the course with her children. “The clubhouse and the staff are welcoming and accepting of children and families.”
“The staff is awesome,” said 8-year-old Jake Brill. “My favorite hole is the eighth. (105 yards, elevated green, over a river, par 3) I can hit the green now because we come here and practice. I can’t wait for golf camp.”
Situated on 100 acres, just a couple of miles north of Poplar, The course has evolved over its 50-year history from nine holes with sand greens, to an executive sized 18-hole challenging yet playable course. The facility sports a fleet of 44 motorized rental carts and several sets of rental clubs for a beginner to try out. The clubhouse offers full beverage service as well as an assortment of snacks and meals.
In 1972, Gordy Longville bought the facility from the Sauter Family. Longville, a golf pro from Eau Claire, wanted a facility of his own but, in 1972, the golf course was in a poor state of repair.
“I had trouble finding the holes,” Longville said. “I also had to borrow money for a fairway mower.”
Side by side with his wife, Doris, Longville did everything at the facility from campground maintenance to building the golf business. During his 20-year tenure as owner, Gordy built a new clubhouse on the property.
“We bulldozed the old building, then set it afire,” Longville said with the hint of a twinkle in his eye. “Maybe it got just a little out of control. Every cop within 100 miles was here but no one got arrested.”
Longville also told of black bear visitors in the early years. “They were always in the dumpsters and chewing up the seats of the golf carts,” he said.
Educating golfers in protocol and etiquette was also left up to Gordy.
“We had a tournament one day,” Longville said. “One guy shows up in football spikes and that tore up the greens. I had to chase him down and get those football spikes away from him.”
As a golf pro, Longville has had the opportunity to play an exhibition round with golf legend Patty Berg. He also had the opportunity to caddy for LPGA professional Jan Stevenson. True to the lifelong love of the game, Longville can still be found cutting the greens six days a week at Poplar Golf Course.
In 1991, Mike Lattery bought the course from Longville. At that time, the campground had been closed, but the greens on the course, now bent grass, were impeccable.
“Gordie has always been known for his greens,” said Lattery, who re-opened the campground in the first year of ownership.
Lattery then laid out what would become the back nine of the course. In 1992, work began with the brushing and dozing of the back nine. Much of that work was done by retired Republic Airline captain Marvin Johnson and retired Frasier shipyard worker Billy Grandlienard, an accomplished woodworker who also made many of the fixtures in the current clubhouse. Under the stewardship of Lattery he was assisted by his brother in laws, Bob and Don Baldwin. Bob Baldwin then went on to build Hidden Greens Golf Course in Solon Springs.
In 1996, Lattery sold his interest in the course to devote more time to his young family. Once bitten by the golf bug, Lattery could not stay away and bought back into the facility in 2009. Together with co-owner Larry Zimmerman, the facility continues to grow and improve.
“Larry is in his element in promotion and event planning,” Lattery said. “I concentrate more on the physical structure and growth of the facility.”
One can imagine a variety of stories that can be told with a rich 50-year history. The opportunity to hear some of those stories and check out this northland jewel comes on Saturday when PGC is officially celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Free golf, free food, door prizes and a host of other activities await anyone who chooses to participate.
“We will continue down the path of improvement and programs to make Poplar Golf Course an area leader for the serious golfer and families alike,” Lattery said.