The BeginningsA Short HistoryThe Course RemainsSome StoriesCaddies

The Golf Course Remains - The Players Have Changed
by John Wranesh 3-5-99

The nine-hole golf course was developed from pastureland just west of Hailesboro, New York by a small group of moneyed people in Gouverneur, New York. They called it the Gouverneur Country Club. The old cow barn on the property was cleared of stanchions on the bottom floor, thoroughly cleaned and whitewashed and became the members locker rooms, golf pro shop, game room and bar, even housing a few one-armed bandits.

The upper portion of the barn, the haymow, was later converted into a huge kitchen, dining room and dance area. Many windows were added to provide a wonderful view of the golf course and surrounding farmland and creek. A perfect setting for a golf course and the founders are to be commended, for it hasn't changed much to this day.

A golf course requires untold amounts of water. Luckily, to the north of the land an unlimited quantity of water was available from Mattoon Creek. A two- inch water line was installed from the pump house at the creek to the distribution system on the course. This system was pretty well planned and virtually trouble free. The golfers and the caddies learned the game together on a course maintained by workers who also had to learn how to develop good greens and fairways and keep the whole course free of weeds.

The first golf pro was Bill Graegle, a single young man and sort of playboy who got things started and lasted a season or so. This was in the very early thirties when a decent job was hard to come by.

Bill was succeeded by Bill Burton, a family man who was a bit more stable and knowledgeable about running a golf course. He was a likeable trusting character even to the point of letting the older caddies drive his car to take his children to a nearby lake during the swimming season. Bill stayed on until the mid-thirties, bringing the club along to a respectable status among the various other country clubs in the North Country. He was a good organizer and there were many golf matches in the Adirondack region. He even organized caddy matches in the region. Bill left in the mid thirties for a position at a golf club on the outskirts of Syracuse, New York. It was like going home for him and afforded a better opportunity.

Bill’s successor at the country club was John Monahan, right out of New York City. He had an accent right out of Brooklyn. He was a freckled face redhead, his wife Maureen was redheaded, and the two little girls were redheaded. John didn't even have a car and couldn't drive. He maintained an apartment near the main road and he depended upon the members to give him a ride to and from the golf course.

His wooden shafted golf clubs right away made one wonder “this guy is a golf pro?" John turned out to be a better businessman than a golf pro; the greatest portion of his income was derived from the bar business in the back room. However, he had an understanding of the game and was very thorough whenever giving lessons to members.. He was quite strict with the caddies and maintained an equitable caddy house system. Caddies were allowed into the pro shop only for assigned work details or to buy pop, candy bars or to play the candy punchboard. John was very “careful” with money. On occasion the caddies would become a bit wild and maybe throw and break an empty pop bottle. In his New York accent he would say “yuzz guys are gonna break me up. Cripe all mighty those pop bottelz cost two cents apiece and here you are breaking them up, there goes my profit!"

John had sort of a stiff or clubfoot and had an awkward walk and played very little golf - although he could shoot a respectable game. Whenever he did play the caddies would all watch as he started out and murmured "he is actually going to play, wonder how he is going to do?"

John was quite efficient in handling the club handicap system, organizing matches for intra and inter-club play, interpreting the rules, supervising the grounds crew and generally maintaining a good golf club. The caddy matches between surrounding clubs became a thing of the past with John’s arrival.

During the winter months John served as manager of the “Citizens Club” which in fact was a glorified name for a poker club made up of many of the country club members. This was a good source of income for him and in the current vernacular a ”fringe benefit.” John stayed on for many years. He eventually bought a car so his wife could drive him back and forth to the club and he finally retired.

With the advent of the motorized golf carts, discount marketing of golfing equipment, and changing lifestyles, a golf pro could hardly exist in a rather small club. The pro position was reduced to a managerial position, mainly one of maintaining the clubhouse and keeping the course in shape. However, the golf course remains much the same to this day and a beautiful challenge to all who play her!




90 Country Club Road, Gouverneur, NY 13642


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