Par-tee time: Riverside turns 100
Golf course one of the oldest in Minnesota
Even while golf was still in its infancy in the State of Minnesota, two towns in southern Minnesota came together to create one of the first 9-hole golf courses in the state.
Now, the current members and past members of that golf club are going to celebrate its centennial.
It was 100 years ago when businessmen from Blue Earth and Winnebago joined forces to create the Riverside Town & Country Golf Club.
The date of record for the organization of the new golf course was Jan. 18, 1921. That was when a committee met, which included H.C. Eder, attorney Chris Carlson and Chas. Constan, and formed the plan.
There would be 65 members from Blue Earth and 65 from Winnebago, with each of them paying $150 towards the purchase of land for the new course.
A headline in the Jan. 27, 1921 Faribault County Register proclaimed “Country Club A Sure Thing.” The story relates that “What is destined to be one of the finest play grounds in southern Minnesota is the new Country Club Grounds northwest of the M.C. Horgan farm, about midway between Blue Earth and Winnebago, on the Daniel Boone Highway.”
The land had actually been purchased earlier, on Oct. 26, 1920. Chris Carlson and W.E.C. Ross had each paid $1,000 to a Chester Rademacher to buy out his option on purchasing the land from Mike and Johanna Horgan.
It is not entirely clear when the actual golf fairways and greens were created, but a later report in the Register states people were seen on the future course learning how to golf and practicing their new skills.
The grand opening of the new country club, with it’s new clubhouse, was later that year, on October 20, 1921. There were 400 people in attendance and it was quite the big gala, according to a story in the Register. The Mason City, Iowa, Orchestra performed, as well as many local singers.
Now there will be another big party at the club to celebrate its 100th year.
On Friday, July 30, current and past club members and their guests will be attending a supper and Calcutta Auction. Then on Saturday, July 31, there will be a Calcutta Tourney starting at 9 a.m., and another supper at 5:30 p.m.
That will be followed by live entertainment from 7-10 p.m. on Saturday night.
“We are having Brett Feist, who was the closer Friday night at Giant Days, as the entertainment,” says Mike McNerney, a member of the board at Riverside T&C Club. “The public is welcome to come for that entertainment.”
McNerney was president of the golf club a few years ago when they decided to complete a series of projects to fix up the course, inside and outside.
“It was back in 2014 when we started something called Project 21,” he says. “It was Project 21 because we wanted to get all the projects done by the course’s 100th birthday in 2021.”
They did not quite make it. In 2014 there was a storm that damaged the course and took out 45 trees. In 2018 there was a tornado that did more damage and caused the removal of 220 trees.
“And of course, there was the COIVD-19 pandemic in 2020 and that really set us back,” McNerney says. “So we were not able to get it all done – but we are still working on it.”
There were plenty of projects which where completed, from redoing the bar area in the lower level and remodeling both the mens and womens restrooms, to also remodeling all of the upstairs banquet room areas. That included the windows and the floors.
The outside of the clubhouse was also redone in some areas, and there were other projects around the nine hole course. That included the deck, patio area, cartpaths and much more.
What was not done was a new entrance to the clubhouse and an upstairs bar.
“We are getting some private donations so we can turn the sun room area on the main floor into a second wet bar to use for receptions and parties,” McNerney says. “It would be in addition to the bar area downstairs.”
Plus, there are plans for a whole new entrance and extension on the building, with a handicap accessible entrance.
“We are hoping to break ground on that project next spring,” McNerney says. “Possibly even this fall. And we want to move the ladies restroom also.”
Riverside Town & Country Club has had to face many adversities over its 100 year history.
Besides the storms of 2014 and 2018 and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, there have been many other storms including the one in May of 1936 where a tornado did heavy damage to the city of Blue Earth and the golf course.
Then there was the Great Depression in the 1930s, the World War II years in the 1940s, and other socio-economic issues which had an effect on the course itself or on the membership.
Perhaps the biggest event happened on Nov. 5, 1936, when the original clubhouse burned to the ground.
Building a new clubhouse was in question, especially figuring out how to pay for it, according to information in a book about the history of the golf course written by Dr. John Anderson and published in 1996.
Eventually Dr. Clyde Wilson loaned the money to the club to rebuild the clubhouse. It was finished in late 1937. A tent was used as the temporary clubhouse for the 1937 golfing season.
The loan was finally paid off to Dr. Wilson in 1965. At the same time the clubhouse was remodeled and added onto during the winter of 1964-1965.
Now the club members are busy getting Riverside Town & Country Club course and clubhouse ready for its next 100 years.
Megan Hanson-Haase is the club manager. Club president this year is Jeff Pfaffinger and the vice president is Ben Gjere. Both have been involved in the construction work going on at the course the past year and a half, as have many others.
“It has been a group effort,” McNerney says. “So many people have stepped up and helped out that it would be hard to name them all. The members here are dedicated to making this a great golf course.”
And while it has often been stated that Riverside Town & Country Club is the oldest 9-hole golf course in the state of Minnesota, McNerney says they have had a bit of trouble verifying that fact.
“But, we are pretty sure it is in the top three as far as being the oldest course,” he says. “And we want it to be one of the best ones, as well.”