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Golf club takes a swing at gaining new business

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

ELLIS -- After being closed for approximately six months after a bank foreclosure, the city's golf course reopened in June, backed by a local group of investors.

Ellis Golf Club has 104 memberships, but is looking to add more as spring nears and golfers look to get on the course.

"We've rebranded, trying to just get everybody's faith and business back," said manager Joshua Wilson.

"We want to stay community-oriented. We don't want to try to project ourselves as an elite golf course. We want you to know everybody's welcome. We'd like to have families and businessmen alike."

Although the course is open to the public, memberships are available with different rates. For instance, a corporate membership is $800 per year, while a college membership is less than $200 per year. Monthly payment options are available. Members receive a 5-percent discount on everything from meals to pro shop supplies. Wilson said the target is 170 memberships by year's end.

Last summer's drought hit the course hard, with some of the fairways succumbing to dry conditions.

"We have got new grass put down," Wilson said. "I think we're pretty close to 70 percent coverage to what we've re-seeded. We went back to bluegrass fairways.

"I would venture to say we probably have the best greens around. We're certainly, I would say, the best 9-hole golf course in western Kansas."

Neil DeWerff, former superintendent at Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course, is the superintendent at Ellis Golf Course.

"He's another big asset we've been able to pick up," Wilson said. "We've got a really good team put together."

Dean Gottschalk, president of Ellis Golf Club, said the group of investors believed it was important to get the course re-opened last summer.

"Gives people extra things to do on weekends after working all week," he said. "Get out and enjoy Mother Nature and outdoors."

Gottschalk is pleased with what Wilson has done since being promoted to manager.

"With some of his ideas and his motivation, I think the place will do very well," Gottschalk said.

Wilson was working on his master of business administration degree at Fort Hays State University when he learned Ellis Golf Club was looking for an assistant manager. Wilson, who was hired in November as assistant manager, was promoted to manager in January. His goal once he got his MBA was to run a golf course.

"It worked out perfect," Wilson said. "I got the job I wanted after I graduated, before I graduated."

Wilson said he has received positive feedback about the new ownership of the city's golf course.

"We have people coming in almost every day telling us that they're glad we re-opened, glad that we stayed open through the winter, are real happy that we're trying to keep things going," Wilson said. "I think as an asset to the community of Ellis and the surrounding area, we offer a great service to people."