Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 27, 2015, pg. 3
Did you receive a new set of golf clubs for Christmas? In the November 22, 2015 edition of this column we featured information about Albion’s first golf course which was located in the vicinity of Lombard St. We’ll play another nine holes this week as we focus on another site: the Willow Ridge Golf Course. It was located on Newburg Road (29 ½ Mile Road) just east of town, just south of the Kalamazoo River on 44 acres of land on the east side of the road. It opened on Wednesday, June 17, 1931. Yes, this was during the Great Depression, an odd time, it seems to establish a golf course. The course had been developed that spring by the Schumacher Construction Company, a well-established Albion contractor firm consisting of Frederick W. Schumacher, John Geyer, and Albert F. Schumacher.
The first managers of Willow Ridge were Claude (1871-1939) and Minneola (1887-1962) Amsden, who were theatrical vaudeville actors in their younger days and had toured across the United States. They returned to Albion in 1928 and retired in 1932. Ironically, Claude’s father Manley Amsden (1831-1912) ran the old Newburg Mill just north of the future golf course in the late 19th century. The Amsden’s management agreement with the Schumachers stated that they were to: "…do the office work, prepare and sell light lunches and refreshments, also cigars and golf players supplies, keep the inside of the building in good order seven days each week, in as much as can be done by themselves between the hours of 8 am. and 9 pm. They are to do all buying of all supplies with cash received from sales." For their work they were paid a salary of $40 a week.
The Albion Evening Recorder stated on June 17, 1931 following opening day: "The new course…is an even 2,800 yards in length and has a par of 35. The longest hole is the 7th, 460 yards from tee to cup, while the shortest is the 4th, which is only 144 yards in length." The clubhouse sat on the far northwest portion entrance of the course. An octagon-shaped house sat in front along Newburg Road. The old abandoned Michigan United Railways (Interurban) bed formed the southern boundary of the course property.
Claude’s health declined in the late 1930s and he passed away in 1939. The management of Willow Ridge was transferred to two brothers, George and Robert Schultz. Many of our readers might remember Robert who ran the soda and candy counter at Parks Drug Store for many years. Bob states that Willow Ridge golf course closed at the end of the season in September, 1941, and did not reopen the next season because of World War II. Kenneth Kaiser remembers playing a hole or two in 1942, but said, "the course was soon plowed up to plant wheat." Wheat was a valuable commodity during the War and was in short supply.
With the closure of the course, the property was reverted to farmland and the clubhouse became a private residence before burning down years later. From our Historical Notebook this week we present the cover of a scorecard from the Willow Ridge Golf Course, courtesy of Dave Eddy. How many of our readers remember the Willow Ridge Golf course?
Special thanks also to Bob Schultz, Kenneth Kaiser, and Elton Amsden for supplying information for this week’s article. Elton Amsden, by the way, is probably the last living core member of Albion’s 1939 Albion High School’s state basketball championship team. He just celebrated his 95th birthday this past November 21. I’m sure he’d appreciate a birthday card sent to his new address at: 213 Rackley Lane, Easley, SC 29642-8924.
ADDENDUM: Letter from Scott Pickens: "I talked to Dad (Vaud Pickens Jr.) about Willow Ridge Golf Course. The course was completed in 1929. His Dad, Vaud Pickens SR. leased it from 1938 to 1941. from Schumaker (sp) Construction Co. Then the war started and Oscar Tessmer leased it for one year. Then because of the war they closed it and plowed it over. Dad, Vaud JR. worked for his dad running the mowers and tractors. He said and I remember he gave me the pics. of the Clubhouse and some of the holes. Willow trees ran the whole North Boundry of the Course. Vaud SR. owned the bowling alley which he ran in the Winters and in the Summer he would close the B. alley (no A/C then ) and run the Golf Course."
The cover of a scorecard from the Willow Ridge Golf Course, courtesy of Dave Eddy.
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic