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Golf at PDT: Future rooted in the past

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

If any golfers who first played Pomme de Terre Golf Club 85 years ago could get a look at the place now, they'd ... well, they'd tee one up and smack it.

From its birth on the hard scrabble prairies in 1923, the club has seen boom times and bad. Fires, rebuilding and more fires. Regardless, Morris-area golfers over 85 years - some years in greater numbers than others -- have kept doing what golfers do.

Now, PDT is on the upswing again, with a second-to-none clubhouse for a small public course, improving course conditions and a new links-like 10 holes that make it a unique 18-hole track.

To celebrate its past, present and future, the club will commemorate its 85th anniversary on Saturday, June 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be demos on the range with Callaway Golf, Ping, Titleist and Footjoy, as well as food and music. Foursomes will have the opportunity to pay $85 dollars for 18 holes and carts.

"I'm kind of a history lover, so I read all the old articles from the newspapers and read the original bylaws," said course owner and manager Chris Leman. "Back then, green fees for nine holes were 50 cents. It's pretty cool to see how things have come along over the years."

Before the course was conceived, a hotel used to sit on the property, although Leman said he's been unable to dig up much history on the place.

In 1923, a small clubhouse was built, and members putted on sand greens until the mid-1930s. While a fire eventually took out the original clubhouse, the course remained a centerpiece of the community. For many years, PDT was known for its supper club and swimming pool. After fire destroyed that complex, golfers for years played out of a clubhouse that was no larger than a cart shed.

With the course beginning to go to seed a few years ago, local business owners purchased the facility. The new clubhouse was soon built, and Leman and course superintendent Erik Lemke set about establishing the new Joel Goldstrand designed holes and cleaning up and clarifying the existing holes.

The new 18-hole layout was showcased for a week last fall, and the changes are slowly helping the course take shape in Leman's and Lemke's vision. Fairways have been overseeded four times in two years and hopefully will fill in enough that they can be mowed down tighter. A couple new greens sustained damage over the winter, but considering how new they are, Leman said the new holes, overall, are in great shape and getting better.

"We just can't do it all yet," Leman said. "People every day are asking about this or that, but we've got a list a mile long and we can't do it all right away. But people are happy. They see stuff that's going on, and there's a lot of stuff they don't see that is going to make it a really good course."

"There are things we're constantly tweaking," Leman said. "We're widening the fairways here, changing the rough there. We don't want it to be a miserable experience but we don't want to take the bite out of the course, either. We're finding the balance between fun and challenging."

People may be a little impatient, but it's mostly due to excitement about the promise of the course. The club is part of an area golf card promotion, and a story in the Minnesota Golf Association magazine has piqued interest in the revitalized course and amenities, such as the clubhouse, pro shop and virtually new fleet of carts. Memberships took an immediate upswing once new ownership took over, and Leman said memberships are increasing by about 10 to 15 per year.

The club has booked more tournaments this year, and almost 40 additional functions like reunions and parties were booked in 2007. Leman expects similar traffic this year.

"We see people more and more popping in from out of town," he said. "People are coming in to play from Minneapolis, Willmar, Alexandria. You never saw that before."

Cool and wet spring weather so far has limited PDT's exposure to a certain degree, and a sluggish economy isn't helping. But once both start to turn, PDT will be ready to accommodate, Leman said.

"We're seeing glimpses of the potential, with new people coming in to play," he said. "When we get the economy and the weather to line up at the same time, we'll be in great shape."

To see a virtual tour of the course and for more information about the Pomme de Terre Golf Club or the anniversary celebration, visit the PDT Web site at, or call (320) 589-1009.