I love golf. I find the sport very relaxing to watch on a Sunday afternoon. The scenery is always spectacular and the players are phenomenal.
But playing golf was not quite as relaxing. Maybe that is why I put the sticks up a few years ago. There may come a day when I will take the sport back up again, but for now I will let the pros entertain me.
I started playing golf during my Scribner Junior High School days. The reason I began playing and following the sport was because of New Albany's Fuzzy Zoeller, who made a worldwide name for himself by winning the 1979 Masters and 1984 U.S. Open. Before Romeo became a household name in New Albany, it was all Fuzzy. It was pretty cool to have a two-time major champion on the PGA Tour from your hometown. It still is.
Following Fuzzy's career helped turn me on to golf and I have never wavered in my passion for the sport.
Like Fuzzy, I started playing at Cherry Valley Golf Course along Cherry Street in New Albany. While it was the old Valley View Golf Course during Fuzzy's formative years before Interstate 64 forced it to relocate to Floyds Knobs, the makeshift par-3 course was just right for me.
There was even a stretch when the course closed down for a bit and we still played on it even though we had to putt through crab grass on the greens. The course reopened and has been a mainstay in the city for decades.
Unfortunately, its future is somewhat in doubt. The city and state own the property and for almost 20 years it has been leased to Gerald Mason for basically nothing. Mason keeps the proceeds after expenses are paid but admits he is happy each year to break even.
Mason has operated Cherry Valley seven days a week except when the weather is too cold or too wet to open. He has been there doing everything from providing a swing tip to a beginner, to maintaining the clubhouse and cutting the grass. He has been a one-man show for 20 years.
But some recent health problems have slowed him down and he is hoping the city can help him financially with the operation of the course, including cutting the grass. If not the city, possibly find someone else to operate the course.
"I just can't do it anymore," he said. "I feel like they [city] want to help. It's a historic site. It's been there since the ’30s."
The course is definitely both an asset and a historic site. Not only did Fuzzy learn to play the game on the grounds, but PGA legend Byron Nelson once played there when it was the old Valley View Golf Course.
Aside from being historic, it's affordable and attracts a lot of seniors and beginners. It also doesn't take four or five hours to play. It would be a nice addition to the New Albany Parks Department should the city decide to go that route.
Clarksville operates Wooded View Golf Course and does a great job. Louisville is loaded with municipal courses. Maybe it's time for New Albany to get into the business of running a golf course.
"I want to keep it going somehow," Mason said. "I just need some help. I am not looking to make any money or for a handout, I just can't keep working at it seven days a week anymore. I just don't want anything to happen to it under my watch."
Mason and city officials are expected to meet Jan. 6 to discuss the course and its future. He hopes the meeting will provide some answers.
City attorney Shane Gibson said the city only owns a small portion of the land, and that the state owns the rest. He said while the city is not obligated to maintain or operate Cherry Valley, "it paved the golf cart paths within the last several years, purchased machinery to assist in maintenance of the grounds, had vendor seed and chemical the greens, and just in the last month paid for seal coating the paths."
That is the kind of continued help Mason needs to get from the city .... and he hopes it can be expanded.
Cherry Valley Golf Course is not only part of our history, but it has introduced the game to thousands of people, including me. However, it cannot continue unless Mason gets more help ... either from the city or elsewhere. He has done a great job for 20 years keeping the course alive and making the needed repairs and maintenance to the clubhouse and course. But it's going to take more than one man to lead Cherry Valley into a new decade.
"I knew I wasn't going to get rich when I took over this course, but I didn't care. I am from the west end and I wanted to do this," he said. "I don't want anything, just some help to keep it going. That is all I want."
— Contact Assistant Editor Chris Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org and 812-206-2155.