Veterans Memorial Golf Course launches improvement drive

The new operators want to increase maintenance, speed up the pace, attract more golfers and open a concession area.

Veterans Memorial Golf Course has been closed due to frozen conditions and extreme fog, but the new operators are looking forward to the season.

Veterans Memorial Golf Course has been closed due to frozen conditions and extreme fog, but the new operators are looking forward to the season. Photo by Michael Lopez.

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WALLA WALLA — Dozens of golfers gathered at Veterans Memorial Golf Course this weekend but not to tee off.

Instead, they came to greet and listen to the new managers of the municipal course, as well as check out the 2014 fees.

“I think everyone is very encouraged because the course had been down for so long,” DeSales High School golf team coach Lon Olson said.

Veterans Memorial Golf Course 2014 rates

March-October

Nine holes, 18 holes

Adults: $21, $33

62 and over: $17, $27

18-25: $12, $20

17 and under: $9, $15

November-February

Adults: $16, $26

62 and over: $12, $21

18-25: $10, $16

17 and under: $7, $12

Season Pass

Adults: $1,300

62 and over: $950

Additional family member: $450

18-25: $500

17 and under: $350

Olson was one of 66 golfers who attended the Saturday meeting, where new co-manager Chris Repass discussed plans to increase maintenance, speed up the pace, attract more young golfers, provide more accessibility to management, open a concession area with beer, and, first of all, improve the course.

“What will keep them coming back is the shape of the course,” Repass said. And he added that in addition to having a better course there will be access to it, as the plan is to stay open seven days a week starting with New Year’s Day.

“I will be right behind the counter,” Repass said.

While there are plenty of improvements to be made on the course, Repass complimented the city and its interim golf course managers, who stepped in when the city abruptly ended its lease with the prior manager.

The city ended a nearly 18-year partnership with We-Man Vets Golf Inc. after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on Feb. 21.

Many of the golfers at Saturday’s meeting commented that before the bankruptcy filing, Veterans Memorial Golf Course was in the worse condition they had ever seen it.

“We don’t want to reflect on the past. We need to move forward,” Repass said.

In addition to improving the course, Repass said indoor concessions and a gathering area will be set up within the next couple of weeks, but it won’t be the full restaurant that had once operated out of the clubhouse.

“I don’t know if we are going to get it exactly to where it was, but it is going to be a place where you can sit down and relax and have a cup of coffee, a pop, a beer or whatever,” Repass said.

The new management team, officially know as Early-Repass Golf LLC, also consists of Mike Early. Both men are seasoned golf pros with roots in Walla Walla and strong desires to return to where they originally learned to play golf.

“I grew up here. I took my first lesson here from Jim Henderson,” Repass said. “We couldn’t pass this up. For Mike and me it is a chance to come home.”

Repass added that he and Early will work to bring in more youth golfers.

The industry as a whole has suffered lower numbers, including golf courses in Walla Walla.

“They are the future of golf,” Repass said, noting that sometimes younger players lack the knowledge of proper golf etiquette. “You shouldn’t get on their butts but embrace them.”

Repass said they will increase tournaments, and have already scheduled three for 2014, which include Pro-Am, ladies invitational and senior tournaments.

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