(Photo of Superintendent Ed Cimoch by Christopher Dolan/The Citizens’ Voice)
The 60-year-old daily-fee in Mount Cobb, Pa., which needed to get off to an earlier and stronger start to try to survive for another season, has closed its doors. The owners who bought the 176-acre property in 2003 for $3.475 million have petitioned the township for rezoning to develop an industrial park with warehouses on the site. Longtime Course Superintendent Ed Cimoch was given a “last gasp” opportunity to purchase the course for the same price, but found it “out of my league.”
Gov. Tom Wolf announced on April 27th that golf courses across Pennsylvania will be allowed to reopen on May 1st, but lifting the ban didn’t come soon enough for the 60-year-old Scranton Municipal Golf Course in Mount Cobb, Pa., The Citizens’ Voice of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. reported.
Opening for another season didn’t seem likely anyway for the daily-fee 176-acre property with a par-72, 18-hole course designed by James Harrison, The Citizens’ Voice reported, after brothers Louis and Dominick DeNaples, who bought Scranton Municipal in 2003 for $3.475 million, had made a proposal to Jefferson Township earlier this year, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, to rezone it to change its residential status to permit construction of an industrial park with warehouses.
And course superintendent Ed Cimoch confirmed to The Citizens’ Voice on April 27th that the disruptions and delays in starting play this year that were caused by the COVID-19 outbreak sealed the course’s fate.
“It’s over. We’re done,” Cimoch said as he cleared his office of five decades of memories. “We would have opened this year before the coronavirus hit. We were guaranteeing everybody this year. There would be one last year, and we would know in the middle of the year if we were going to come back.”
Cimoch told The Citizens’ Voice that he was given a last-gasp opportunity to purchase the course for the same price it sold for in 2003.
“They gave me an option to buy,” Cimoch said. “I swear to God I played the Powerball on Saturday night. I did. I don’t even play the darned thing, and I played it Saturday night.
“I was very happy that they gave me a shot to buy it, but it’s out of my league,” he added. “I found out about it a week ago and they gave me until [Monday] morning to purchase it. I talked to a few people, but the number just doesn’t work for golf right now. Golf is depressed, and though you could do a lot more here, you need a lot more money, too. It’s not just buying the course. If you want to improve it, you need millions more to redo the clubhouse, the drainage, all the machinery needs to be replaced.”
No one knows what it would take to keep Scranton Muni alive, The Citizens’ Voice reported, better than the 62-year-old Cimoch, whose father first brought him to the course when he was 2 years old, and where Cimoch has worked since he was 10.
That’s when he started selling snacks and soda on weekends to golfers.
“There used to be a little shack between No. 6 tee and No. 7 green and they actually had power running up there,” Cimoch said. “I used to sell fountain soda, hot dogs. Soda, candy bars, crackers, chips were all a dime. Hot dogs were a quarter.
“The older you get, the more special those memories were.”
By age 16, Cimoch had done everything there was to do at the course, from being a starter to cutting fairways and greens, The Citizens’ Voice reported. After his father’s death in 1980, Cimoch went back to Penn State University to study agronomy, and he was hired as the full-time superintendent in 1982.
Under his direction, golf boomed, The Citizens’ Voice reported.
“We started those tournaments in like 1981, ’82, and ran them into the early 2000s,” Cimoch said. “Seemed the AGA [Anthracite Golf Association] was starting to take on a lot of tournaments so the turnout was less, but in the ’80s and early ’90s, you had to fight to get into those tournaments.
“They’d be teeing off at 6 in the morning and we’d have to put cars’ [headlights] onto the last hole so people could finish at night. It was nuts. Golf was booming, everybody was playing. It was packed.”
On Saturday, April 25th, after it became clear that the course would have to close, The Citizens’ Voice reported, there were only three golfers present for Scranton Municipal’s final “round:” 35-year course employee Mike Peregrim, Cimoch, and his son Sebastian, who Ed started bringing to the course when he was 2.
“Mike grew up here, Sebastian literally grew up here, and I literally grew up here,” Cimoch said. “It was like closure. We took pictures on every tee, every green. It was a really nice round of golf. No one else was here. We were closed. Just the three of us.”
For Peregrim, whose dad brought him to Scranton Muni when he was too young to play other courses, the memories go beyond a final 18 holes, The Citizens’ Voice reported.
“It wasn’t just golf up there,” Peregrim said. “It was our country club. It was a working man’s club. We had a really good group of guys.”
They dubbed themselves the “Muni Rats” and membership not only required a love for the game, but a thick skin for the zingers that were part of the group’s camaraderie, The Citizens’ Voice reported.
“To say [the course’s closing] will be detrimental to the golf community is an understatement,” Peregrim said. “You have all these players up here. Everybody started up here. Everybody knew where the Muni was.”
With one last selfie on the 18th green for Cimoch’s threesome, Scranton Muni went into the books with far less fanfare than the tournaments that hosted generations, The Citizens’ Voice reported. And on April 28th, Cimoch planned to finish taking decades of photos off the walls of his office, and to turn the key to lock the clubhouse for the last time.
“It came to an end a little quicker than you wanted it to,” Cimoch said. “I’m kind of in shock yet. It’s like someone yanked your stomach right out of your body.”
The DeNaples’ proposal for redeveloping the property has had no further movement since the rezoning was brought up at the township meeting in February, The Citizens’ Voice reported. “We haven’t heard a peep since that meeting,” Township Supervisor Jason Hollister said.