Still swinging after 90 yearsBetty Nicholas will be honored at an open house on Saturday
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
In her 90 years of life, Betty Nicholas has learned to savor the moments of beauty in each day.
“Take time to enjoy yourself,” she says. “Don’t work all the time.”
That instinct led her to take a stroll through a hayfield with her husband, Lindy Nicholas, in 1963.
Both admired the rolling hills under the bright blue sky, and they agreed the scenery was too lovely to keep to themselves.
Five decades later, Norwood Golf Course remains a legacy of that walk on the old farmstead.
“The only reason we built it is because we would walk out there and say, ‘It is too beautiful out here just for nothing to come of it,’” Betty said.
On Saturday, the public is invited to enjoy the scenery and celebrate Betty’s 90th birthday at an open house at Norwood Golf Course. The party is scheduled to run from 2-4 p.m. in the Norwood clubhouse, and all are welcome to attend.
Betty was born in South Range on Feb. 15, 1923. She marked official 90th birthday quietly this winter, celebrating with her three sons.
“My relatives were out of town. Nobody was here to have a birthday,” Betty said. “Imagine how it was when I was born in 1923.”
Plans were made for a summer celebration, Betty said, and her daughters-in-law handled all the arrangements for the big party.
“I think there’s going to be a lot more people here than she thinks,” said Jim Nicholas, Betty’s second eldest son and manager of Norwood Golf Course.
Betty expects a modest turnout — a dozen or so golfers, a few people from church and her family members. At most, she said, “maybe 50 people” could stop by.
Jim Nicholas smiled at his mother’s estimates.
“I think she’ll be surprised,” he said.
Ann Heinen, who does much of the landscaping at Norwood, has known Betty for about 15 years.
“She’s a grand person,” Heinen said. “And she still golfs with us when she feels up to it.”
Betty feels up to golfing most days. She joins Heinen every week in Norwood’s Wednesday Morning Ladies golf league and plays with small groups whenever she can.
“It’s a social thing more or less,” Betty said. “I really don’t care if I don’t play real good.”
Roaming the greens and knocking down putts is a fine way to spend a morning, but Betty says it’s the camaraderie that keeps her playing golf.
Betty said her husband was not familiar with golf before they came up with the idea for the golf course, and he didn’t take to the sport like she did.
“He was awful to golf with because he always wanted do-overs,” said Betty, laughing. “He was not a golfer.”
Betty on the other hand, remains an avid golfer to this day.
She also enjoys painting and photography.
Her watercolors reflect a cheery world of vibrant color and soft edges. Her photographs capture the splendor of local treasures like the Brule River and Lake Minnesuing.
Many of Betty’s watercolors adorn the clubhouse at Northwood, and she hopes to have a few new paintings framed and hung for her 90th birthday celebration.
“I’ve got a lot of them at the house that have never been framed, so I’m going to try to get them up for the party,” she said.
Betty spent her earliest days in South Range, but her family moved to Superior when she was in second grade. She went on to graduate from Superior Central High School.
When she attended Superior Central High Schookl, Betty said, transportation wasn’t what it is now. Students did not have the luxury of cars.
For students living in town, that made going home for lunch an interesting experience.
“I used to run because I went home for lunch and then back again within the hour,” Betty said. “And that was about seven, eight blocks to run to school.”
After high school, Betty worked as a switchboard operator. The United States was just entering World War II at the time. Betty said many friends enlisted and still more were drafted. Some did not come home.
“We lost a lot of friends,” Betty said. “Things were different, but we still got together as young people even though some of our people were gone.”
Betty then left the city for Lake Nebagamon, and in 1963, she and Lindy Nicholas opened Northwood Golf Course.
Neither knew much about golf, but Betty said their “crazy” idea just felt right.
“We were walking around, just me and my husband, and we said, ‘You know this is too nice to not let anybody see it,’” Betty said. “He got together with his cousin, Fred Johnson … (and) they decided they would start the golf course.”
The fields were mowed regularly by a farmer renting the land, so much of the brush was already cleared. The next step was to map out the tee boxes and then set up the fairways and greens.
“When you don’t know anything, you go ahead blindly,” Betty said.
Early on, mostly friends came to play at Norwood. Fees were low, and the “clubhouse” consisted of a humble path and one small structure.
“We started out with a little shack for selling tickets, and it was just right by No. 1,” Betty said.
“It looked like a lemonade stand,” said Jim. “Right out of Charlie Brown.”
“Yeah, that’s about what it was,” said Betty.
Since then, Norwood Golf Course has blossomed. The nine-hole golf course now has a true clubhouse — complete with a dance hall — and an irrigation system keeps the greens in top shape. It’s a thoroughly modern golf course, but a few items, like the old silo behind the No. 9 green, keep its history alive.
Norwood will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. Jim Nicholas said plans are not final, but an anniversary event will likely fall later in the year.
Betty, who has watched over the course from the beginning, is sure to be there.