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Wilmette Golf Club open, popular

A piper helped Wilmette Park District officials celebrate the re-opening of the Wilmette Golf Club on July 10, after nearly a year of reconstruction on the 18-hole course.

An onslaught of happy golfers quickly followed, those officials said this week.

Official ceremonies took place July 10, with roughly 100 people, including current and former park district commissioners following the bagpiper onto the Lake Avenue course for the first official tee-offs since it closed last August for its makeover.

“It was great, the weather was gorgeous, and we had current and former commissioners, staff and golf fans here,” district Communications Director Shelagh Donoghue said July 15.

Park board president Jim Crowley was one of the first people to take a ceremonial swing on the fairway, she said.

The next day, supporters of the recently revived park district-oriented Ouilmette Foundation took part in a fundraising tournament, before the 18-hole course opened for regular play July 12. Inaugural events ended with a family barbecue on July 13.

Since then, the revamped course has been busy. Golf course manager Mike Matchen said Wednesday that tee times have been filled up each day. He estimated that between 230 and 240 golfers were reading the greens each day.

“They’re excited. Basically they’re seeing a brand new golf course. Besides dealing with the infrastructure issues, the architecture of the course has changed,” Matchen said.

The extensive renovation includes 14 new greens, 10 new tees and 51 new sand traps. Three lakes on the course have been expanded and the project improved drainage and play by installing 5,000 new drain lines, and more than 17,000 drain tiles.

“There’s a lot of new movement to the greens, and they did a wonderful job with opening up sight lines,” Matchen said. “The vistas that have been created are amazing and the beauty of some of the holes is as noticeable as their playability.”

“And while this area will always flood, we can store and move water off so much more efficiently and quickly now.”

The last major golf course project was an irrigation system installation in 2004. That and the remodeling of the putting and 18th greens were done in conjunction with building a new clubhouse to replace one that burned down in 2003.

Park Board members set the scope of the most recent renovation in 2012, and spent $1.97 million making the improvements.

Originally, officials hoped to complete all the reconstruction by the end of May, with opening festivities to center around the Memorial Day weekend. Cold and inclement growing weather this year forced delays, first to late June and then to July.

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