An Indiana golf course – which has its name on the Wanamaker Trophy – looks to repair, rebuild damage for historic anniversary

EVANSVILLE, Ind. − Paraphrasing Deputy Evansville Mayor Steve Schaefer, it’s been a roller coaster ride up and down the hills at Helfrich Golf Course the past few years.

First came COVID-19 and the ensuing absence of players on the course. When the virus waned, attendance at Helfrich Hills skyrocketed because everyone wanted to be outside.

“We had that success and then the lows – heat and supply chain issues,” Schaefer said. “The irrigation was not functioning. We were borrowing water trucks. The irrigation system is the lifeblood of a course.”

Damage to several greens and bunkers at Helfrich Hills led to the course’s inability to host the first round of the Evansville Men’s City Tournament. As a result, the first and second rounds were played at Fendrich. Many areas around the greens at Helfrich, including the putting surface, were brown or had rough patches.

Because of the subpar conditions, playing fees were reduced to $5 for nine holes and $10 for 18; fees are usually $12 for nine holes and $24 for 18. They were reduced on Sept. 3 because of poor green conditions, said Helfrich Club Pro Dave McAtee. The course was shut down for five days as all 18 greens and the practice putting green were reseeded.

“We then reopened on temporary greens for the fall,” McAtee said. “We’re hoping to get back on greens sometime later this fall depending on growth and good weather conditions.”

Officials hope the course will be fully revitalized in time for its 100th anniversary in 2023.

A multitude of issues at Helfrich Golf Course

All the holes were scarred because of irrigation problems and the summer heat wave.

“It was just drought and stress,” said Helfrich Hills superintendent Cameron Baker. “It turns pink and purple and after that it doesn’t get water.”

Baker said the irrigation system was winterized, but a backflow preventer filled with water.

“Everything was blown out with air pressure,” he said. “Either it was a bad valve or something filled it back up.”

Supply chain issues caused a delay in getting the proper parts. Temperatures climbed to 89 in May and rain was virtually non-existent. A hydraulic pump, estimated at 27 years old, stopped working.

“It was one thing after another,” Schaefer said. “It was basically months where zero irrigation was able to be used.”

McAtee knew the first round of the City Tournament had to be moved from Helfrich to Fendrich to ensure the best playing surface. He noted that Helfrich Hills did host a small qualifier for the City tourney two weeks prior, but the course wasn’t in good enough shape to withstand 150 golfers playing the first round.

Golfers didn’t want to play on “distressed turf,” but McAtee indicated they wanted to stay supportive.

Baker said the grass will grow quicker the longer the weather stays relatively warm this fall.

“It’s coming along quite nicely,” he said.

Every time

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By: Gordon Engelhardt
Title: An Indiana golf course – which has its name on the Wanamaker Trophy – looks to repair, rebuild damage for historic anniversary
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Published Date: Fri, 14 Oct 2022 14:00:33 +0000

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