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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 05 2011

Community's efforts have helped keep Milnor's Lakeview Golf Course going

Milnor, N.D. - The large photographs on the wall of the clubhouse of Lakeview Golf Course tell the story. They show the flood of 2009 inundating the facility, turning nearby Storm Lake into a very large body of water.

A few inches higher, the local folks say, and the electrical power of the clubhouse would have been gone. That pretty much would have wiped out the structure.

It didn’t, and there is the moral of the story to this course. There is no unplugging golf in this small, south-central North Dakota community of 653 people.

“They came in from the street in a canoe and tried to plug the drains,” said Karla Dusek, the general manager of the golf course. “It was a mess.”

Through countless volunteer hours and good ol’ community pride, the clubhouse and course were restored. Built in 1977 with sand greens, it’s weathered its obstacles over the years.

It cost $30,000 to rebuild the clubhouse and maintenance sheds. That’s not chump change for the Milnor Lakeview Golf Course Association, which runs the course.

It’s a nonprofit entity that president Jim Huseth says makes about $4,000 some years and loses about the same in other years. In other words, it finds ways to make ends meet.

Like this year when the course decided not to sell soda in plastic bottles, instead opting for cans because it’s more profitable.

“It’s a balancing act,” Huseth said. “We try to cut costs as much as we can.”

But there’s no cutting the fun. Two grills on the west side of the clubhouse are there for golfers’ own use. On men’s night, they get a workout with steaks or hamburgers.

There are personal touches in every corner, like a Morton Buildings thermometer, a small statue of a golfer with “Jake” on a golf ball and the sidewalk in front of the clubhouse with “Norman” inscribed in the concrete.

It’s probably an ode to one of the founding members of the association, which opened the course in 1977. There were 47 charter members.

Over three decades later, the course is looking for the next generation to take over.

“The ones that built the course have done their work,” Dusek said. “It doesn’t seem like there are the numbers of younger golfers like there were back in the day. But they’re trying and we’re getting more younger members on the board.”

Merril Decker is 62 years old and one of the caretakers of the course. He retired as a foreman seven years ago after 33-plus years with Bobcat Company.

Looking for something to do and mechanically inclined, the course was a perfect match. Repairing old equipment is the No. 1 challenge for Lakeview.

“I’m not a golfer,” Decker said. “But we take care of it and keep it going. We have to keep the equipment running because money is an issue all the time.”

Water is the least of Decker’s worries. The well that waters the course is only 18 feet deep.

“You can punch a hole in the ground around here and find water,” said Decker, who is also on the city council.

The course went to grass greens in the early 1990s. The nine-hole, par 36 layout is 5,724 yards from the men’s tees. There isn’t much danger with the exception of Storm Lake and the unnamed creek that runs by the clubhouse.

Thanks to a dike that was constructed after the ’09 flood that also protects homes across the road, it should no longer be a threat.

“It’s an asset to the community,” Huseth said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia