Bob Mitchell: Golf course story needs to be told

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I got a wake-up call at this year's Hillbilly Golf Tournament, when the event awarded a 50th anniversary recognition plaque to the Cassville Golf Course on the anniversary of the course.


At the end of the presentation, I realized I was the lone living member of the original board of directors. However, that's not the focus of this column, but to add a bit of nostalgia to what really happened in the initial phases of the project.

Few today know of the actual process, some don't really want to know, but the original board of directors back in 1965, like myself, were J. B. Nations, Dr. E.E. McDaniels, Bill Hailey, Glen Truhitte, John Haddock and Truman Baker was treasurer. Then-Gov. Warren Hearnes was the opening speaker for the ceremony and also played in the first official match on the course. Jim Hatfield was golf professional at the time.

First FmHA loan

This project was to be the first Farmer's Home Administration (FmHA) loan for a golf course in Missouri, with local administrator Charles Crawley pushing hard on Columbia headquarters to rush the project through. On the Washington, D.C., side of the project, we had senators Stuart Symington and Thomas Eagleton on our side, pushing for approval on their end.

In the project, the golf association had purchased an option on 80 acres along Highway 112 from Mike Stotts on which to locate the nine-hole grass-green facility. The course was to be an improvement over the nine-hole sand-green that had been previously built by volunteers on the Neely Farm.

A design to fit nicely in the site, including a large pond for water storage on the east side of the property, had previously been provided by a professional golf firm.

Funds late in arriving

With government approval coming slowly, funds for the project were slow in arriving in Cassville, which caused problems for the board of directors when the landowner decided to take the south 40 acres out of the option. This left only 40 acres for the association to build the nine-hole facility, which advisors told us was completely inadequate.

This caused considerable head scratching among the directors before it was realized some property at the east end of the 40 acres still under option was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Norman Chaney.

Guess who was delegated to approach them on the subject of selling some of that land?

Initially, they were reluctant to talk about this possibility or even set a price. After a couple of days with further information provided about the importance of obtaining more land, Norman and Shirley agreed to sell about 35 acres of their land to the association.

More importantly to the golf course project, their selling price, which escapes me 50 years later, was completely reasonable.

From that point on, the project actually got clear sailing through all processes.

So, we've now reached the point of this column. Had it not been for a lot of good people who put faith in the project initially by signing membership agreements required by FmHA (which could be another column in the future), the golfing community and then, last but not least, Norman and Shirley Chaney, Cassville would not have what has been rated as one of the Top 10 Public Courses in Missouri.

A downside

However, there is a downside to this story that happened a few weeks after the course was completed.

There was an access road at the north boundary of the property that Chaney had used to haul hay to a barn located on property he still owned. For some reason that was never fully explained, members of the board ordered a lock placed on the gate prohibiting any further hay hauling through this access. My retort to this action brought a strong rebuke from some of the members.

This only meant to me that someone that had undoubtedly saved the project wasn't given any consideration whatsoever for their selling property in the first place that they really wanted to keep, and at a reasonable price. The price paid for land that made the project possible saved the association money, considering that asked for the second option on the north 40 still owned by the original owner with whom the association was dealing.

Other aspects

There are other aspects of the start of the 18-hole facility that has become such an asset to Cassville that can be covered in future offerings. This one had to be told before it got clear out of mind from anyone in the community.

Hopefully, it will reach the eyes of not only the association but members of the Chaney family, especially the generations that are interested in Cassville.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.

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