Local golf course depends on helping hands

Gary Andrews knows his job as superintendent of the Hillsboro Municipal Golf Course is made a lot easier thanks to an army of volunteers from the Hillsboro Golf Association.

Andrews said their help is more than a bonus, it’s a necessity.

“People would be amazed at how much time is really volunteered here at the golf course,” Andrews said. “I have the highest level of respect and appreciation for the volunteers that help.

“Without the volunteer labor, there’s no way I could keep this course in the shape it’s in.”

Numbering 130 members strong, the HGA takes pride in its local course.

“We all get some gratification out of helping Gary improve the course,” said Richard Nickel, HGA vice-president and director of tournaments. “This really gives us a feeling of personal pride and ownership.

“When you put your time into the course, you just feel like you’re part of it when you see the results,” he added. “You just feel like it’s your course and it makes it fun to play.”

Andrews said it doesn’t matter whether the proposed project is large or small, it’s never a problem getting help.

“We run a small budget, so their help means a lot to me,” he said. “If I had to pay for all the labor involved with these guys, we couldn’t afford it. There’s no way.”

The only full-time employee at the local course, Andrews begins his 16th year manicuring the greens with the help of one part-time employee.

“I also get quite a bit of help from city employees, but that goes both ways,” Andrews said. “Anytime I need help, they’re willing to help, but I also try to help them when they need extra help, too.

“During last winter’s ice storm, I helped them for a week. But they turned around and came out with a bucket truck and the chipper and we trimmed the trees out here.”

Andrews knows the backbone of most small golf courses is the legion of volunteers that enable courses to make key improvements.

“Probably the biggest project we’ve taken on was the irrigated fairways,” Andrews said. “We had well over 1,000 hours of volunteer labor involved in that.

“Chances are I wouldn’t have been able to get the irrigation project done without those volunteers,” he added. “We figured we saved between $250,000 and $300,000 over what it would have cost to hire the job done.”

Andrews said most golf courses have their own employee base-three, four, maybe five employees-who can take on that type of project.

“But I don’t know of any other golf course, except maybe Marion, that has as great a volunteer base and gets as much help as I do,” he said.

“I think people in towns like Marion and Hillsboro have to take a lot more responsibility in their course or else the membership dues and greens fees would be so high no one could play.”

Nickel said the goal of the HGA is simple.

“Our main purpose is to promote the Hillsboro golf course and to help make improvements,” Nickel said. “We try to have tournaments to promote the town and bring people to Hillsboro.

“I think our work at the golf course is very significant,” he said. “We put a lot of hours into the golf course every year.”

In addition to the irrigated fairways, the HGA has helped Andrews construct two new tee boxes, trim trees and pour concrete cart paths.

Members also built a fence along the north end of the course near the fairgrounds, removing trees and redoing a ditch as well as cleaning brush and debris.

“We’re going to be making more new cart paths as well as building two new ladies tee boxes,” Andrews said about the future. “We’ve also talked about cutting some trees down and replacing them with sand traps.”

Until recently, all the cart paths were projects completed by HGA members. Last week, forms were built by association members and the concrete poured by city crews.

“It’s hard to find volunteers at 8 in the morning,” Andrews said. “And concrete poured at 5 in the afternoon when it’s 100 degrees just doesn’t turn out well.”

The current project will increase the cart path by nearly 600 feet on hole No. 3.

“We’re probably saving in the vicinity of $10,000 over having a contractor because of our (volunteer) labor,” Andrews said.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have great contractors around here,” he added. “But if we can save that kind of money with volunteers, we have to do it. Everybody tries to save money and cut corners and we’re no different.”

Andrews said project ideas at the course come from numerous sources.

“Most ideas come from the governing board of the Hillsboro Golf Association,” he said. “We have a board meeting once a month and ideas are discussed.

“If it’s a big enough project, we’ll put out a questionnaire to our members and bring it up at our annual meeting.”

Members of the board are Carl Long, Nickel, Mike Ryan, Roger Fleming, Andy Friesen, Jane Long and Russ Cain.

“For the most part, if we come up with a project, the reason it doesn’t get completed is because of a lack of funds, not because of a lack of volunteers,” Andrews said.

“Anytime I ask for volunteers, the members will show up-they don’t have a problem with it. They like to work hard and they like to play hard. That’s my group.”

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