With the help of scores of volunteers and new staff members, the property settled a lawsuit, paid back $50,000 in outstanding bills, and rehabilitated the golf course. Formed in 1919 under a special lease agreement with the City of Evanston and Village of Wilmette, the course has always been managed by an all-volunteer force.
The Evanston (Ill.) Wilmette Community Golf Course is making a comeback after the help of scores of volunteers, settling a lawsuit filed by Board members, and paying off $50,000 in outstanding bills, Evanston (Ill.) Now reported.
When all the issues the golf association faced last fall came to a head, and the previous President was forced to step down, new President Perry Weinberg said there were only six Board members left out of a total of 19, Now reported.
“I didn’t think I could do it all by myself,” Weinberg said after being elected to head the organization, which was something he said prior leadership had attempted to do.
First, he prioritized, making the lawsuit settlement priority number one, and rebuilding the board priority number two, followed by a much-needed rehabilitation of the actual course, Now reported.
“The lawsuit was concerned about our financial controls, and there were some demands put forward and I discussed it with the City of Evanston,” Weinberg said.
After the lawsuit was settled in mid-January, Weinberg had already recruited a new treasurer, Wilmette resident Joe Rickard, along with roughly 30 other volunteers. Nineteen Board members were elected, while the other volunteers involved were named “consultants” to the Board. Many of the consultants then formed committees to oversee fundraising, course maintenance, finances and other matters, Now reported.
“As someone who came in not knowing anything about the situation, I started finding out how far in arrears things were to our vendors,” Rickard, who is a partner in a small investment bank, said. “Both Evanston and Wilmette were just two of our vendors and we made a priority to take care of those [unpaid bills.]”
The organization owed about $50,000 in total, Rickard said, including $12,000 to the city of Evanston for unpaid water bills. But the golf association has, as of today, “made good 100 percent” on all its outstanding payments, Now reported.
Interim Evanston Parks, Recreation and Community Services director Joseph McRae confirmed that the organization is current on the water bill, Now reported.
With the help of other Board members and consultants, Rickard said he has installed financial controls and checks and balances “that would catch any big things.” The organization has a long range plan to put in all the financial controls needed, and they are currently budgeting for a proper point of sale system for next year, Rickard added.
To help pay off the old bills and finance rehabilitation of the course, Board consultant and chair of the golf association’s marketing and community outreach committee, Debbie Weixl, said a massive fundraising effort was launched, Now reported.
“People were really willing to help,” Weixl said. Businesses like the Alchemy Coffee and Bake House in Wilmette and the Bluestone restaurant in Evanston became sponsors for the organization, in addition to “lots of individual donations. Our target really is local businesses and residents, because this is their backyard and it is public land, and open spaces are at a premium these days. The people who care the most are nearby.”
In addition to paying off the bills, the money raised was also used to hire new golf course superintendent Tom Tully, which Weinberg said was “one of the best things” the organization did this year, Now reported.
Tully was initially tasked with getting the course in the best possible shape in time for the Tour of Duty charity event this past August. Wilmette native and actor Joel Murray and his brothers, including Bill Murray, golfed at the course alongside other local celebrities, firefighters, police officers and paramedics from New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Newtown, Conn., to raise money for charities that benefited first responders, Now reported.
The 18-hole course was whipped into shape before the August event and the association’s own fundraising event in September, Now reported.
“Frankly, we had some greens in embarrassing shape at the beginning of spring and now, towards the end of this year, they’re looking good,” Weinberg said.
Formed in 1919 under a special lease agreement with the City of Evanston and Village of Wilmette, the course has been always managed by an all-volunteer force. But now it seems there are many more community members with a vested interest in the course than in recent years, with even more expressing a desire to help “now that the ball is rolling,” Weinberg said.
“We’re trying to reach the goal of golfing sustaining our operations,” Weinberg said. “To our regret, we’re not there.”
The association currently pulls in about a quarter of its annual revenue from football parking for Northwestern University and local Evanston games. “It bothers us to do it,” Weinberg said, but it’s still a necessary revenue stream, Now reported.
Aside from getting the association in better financial shape over the long haul, Weinberg said the organization is also interested in encouraging young children and families to get involved with new youth-focused programs to be hosted by the association next summer, Now reported.
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