Members of the 73-year-old Lansing (Ill.) Country Club, where the flamboyant pro golfer and three others were killed in 1966, have decided to seek a buyer, citing declining membership and a dwindling interest in golf. But the club does not expect a sale to go through for a few years, and plans to continue to host weddings and special events for the indefinite future.
EDITOR’S NOTE: After this summary of the original article from NWITimes.com was published in C&RB‘s Daily News for January 5, 2015, C&RB was informed by officers of Lansing Country Club that NWITimes.com‘s original report was inaccurate and the club’s equity membership did not vote to put the club up for sale. Instead, a sale is being considered as one option, along with a membership initiative, “50 in ’15,” to try to recruit 50 new members and reverse declining membership trends in the face of increased operating expenses. More details about the membership initiative will appear in the January 6th edition of C&RB Daily News.
Members of the Lansing (Ill.) Country Club recently voted to put their 175-acre property up for sale, reported NWITimes.com, a website serving the Calumet region southeast of Chicago that extends into northwest Indiana. The club, founded in 1940 as the Lansing Sportsmans’ Club, grew to be the largest privately owned recreational facility in the region, NWITimes.com reported, but has fallen victim in recent years to declining membership and a dwindling interest in golf among millennials, according to a member who wished to remain anonymous.
The club will remain open and continue to host and schedule weddings and special events for the indefinite future, and does not expect a sale to go through for a few years, the member added.
Lancing CC’s history includes national recognition that came when a water hazard near its seventh green was the site of the tragic plane crash in 1966 that killed popular pro golfer “Champagne” Tony Lema and three others. Lema was flying in late July from Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, where the 1966 PGA Championship had just been played, for an exhibition tournament at Lincolnshire Country Club in Crete, Ill. The chartered twin-engine plane ran out of fuel less than a mile from the Lansing Municipal Airport, where it was to land.
Lema won the British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews in 1964, finished second by a stroke to Jack Nicklaus in the 1963 Masters, and amassed a total of 22 professional wins before his untimely death at just 32 years old. He played in two Ryder Cups and his 9-1-1 record in those competitions remains the best of any player who has been on two or more Ryder Cup teams.
Lema, a native of California, earned his nickname after he joked in 1962 that he would serve champagne to the press if he won the Orange County (Calif.) Open Invitational in his home state. With good looks and a vivacious personality, at the time of his death he was second only to Arnold Palmer in popularity on the pro tour.
In 2011, Lansing CC unveiled a commemorative plaque on its golf course near the site of the crash.
Lansing CC features an 18-hole golf course, a clubhouse, a full dining room and two lakes that are stocked with bass, blue gills, pike and walleye for fishing, NWITimes.com reported. It has also offered pontoon boat rentals, ice fishing and bocce ball, and its scenic grounds have been a backdrop for many weddings, along with other special events and dances that the club has hosted. People also used to bowl at the club, as well as hunt and trapshoot on the grounds.
But the club’s membership has declined to about 160 members from more than 350 people at one point, and of those only 118 are equity members, the member speaking anonymously told NWITimes.com. Annual membership fees have ranged from $825 for seniors to $1,400 for family memberships.
“We don’t have tennis courts anymore,” the member said. “We don’t have a swimming pool. Golf isn’t enough. Golf is dying. It’s happening nationwide.”
The club hopes to sell all of the property and its facilities to a single buyer, the member added.