Hopefully for all of us in the Souris River Valley each day is getting a little better. The 2011 flood has been tough on a lot of folks and I feel your pain.
We had six feet of water in our main floor on West Central Avenue and Souris Valley Golf Course was 50 percent destroyed. The Jack Hoeven Wee Links was also ruined along with the clubhouse and pump house. So our lives were also turned upside down and the future was uncertain.
I now know that we could have done some things before and after the flood to expedite our recovery. The thing we have to focus on now is the task at hand and get the job done! We must try and come back stronger, smarter and better for the future.
After all of the meetings and expert estimates, the golf course faced $3 million in repairs. The Minot Park District kind of had its back to the wall. It looked like funding for Souris Valley restoration would be years away!
Luckily, one evening I was working the counter at Souris Valley with a modified 9-hole course open and David Lang walked into the golf shop. I've known David for a number of years and he is one of those talented guys that can do just about anything. I asked David what he was up to these days and he said he had kind of retired and that he was basically homeless due to the flood.
Knowing how handy David is, I blurted, "How would you like to rebuild a golf course!?"
He kind of smiled, chuckled and then I saw a little gleam in his eyes and saw the wheels turning in his head. He was thinking about it! The next day David came back out and asked if he could borrow a golf cart to look at the damage. He came out a few more times and being that David's glass is always half full, he finally said, "I think it can be done."
Minot Junior Golf stepped up and agreed to help with David's expenses. Since we made the first move, the Minot Park District agreed to let kids play for free on weekday mornings once they passed a golf rules and etiquette test. This will run from 2013 until 2017. A plus for you parents and the kids!
David went to work on this Goliath of a task. Next, Mike Morley, a former PGA Tour player and an off-and-on golf course architect (it is always his last project) showed up to check on our progress. Mike has made quite a few connections over the years and said he would contact a firm that he had worked with on some of his earlier projects. I could see that same twinkle in Mike's eyes that I saw in David's.
A few days later John Rardin, of Rardin Excavating from Nissawa, Minn., showed up at Souris. John made a couple of trips to Minot to look at the damage and was shocked.
John put together a proposal that was about 80 percent less than the original estimates! The Minot Junior Golf Association stepped up to the plate again and arranged to take care of the expenses. The wheels turned a little faster.
In exchange for this huge commitment, the park district agreed to cover the maintenance for the Wee Links for the next 10 years. Another win-win!
So bring on the bulldozers and dump trucks and we are on our way back. We had to find the sprinkler heads and some of our retired golfers helped us with that task using metal detectors and shovels. With many areas on Souris covered with up to four feet of silt, it was not an easy task. John Rardin and his crew showed up and went to work. David Lang worked side by side with the Rardin crew to help them with any problems and any contacts they might need locally.
Mike Morley worked like a man possessed once the dust and dirt started to fly. John Rardin was a magician and an artist with his bulldozer. He shaped our golf course that had looked like a battlefield into a beautiful looking course, very much like our original layout, but I actually think better. As I am writing this article the entire golf course has been cleaned up and seeded and is growing! The greens are coming in nicely and the fairways and roughs are starting to show a green tint.
Next up: the Jack Hoeven Wee Links! This project has been equally challenging and more frustrating because it really hurt the kids. Minot Junior Golf contracted Aasen Lanscaping after the flood and brothers Don and Tom Aasen went to work and got the course ready for seeding this spring. (Aasen was the contractor when we built the Wee Links.)
We thought that if we got the course ready to seed right away in the spring the kids could be on the golf course sometime this summer. We really wanted the kids to get back out and have some fun golfing after the non-existent summer of 2011. The golf course was ready to seed, but we still did not have any pumps. We were promised and promised that our pumps would be ready to go and at this time we still do not have them. Another option was to hook up to a city fire hydrant and start the seeding and buy city water until our pumps were ready. We were told that there would not be enough pressure to operate our sprinklers from the city hydrant.
The wheels stopped turning. Our pumps were scheduled to be here the first week of September! Figuring that we had nothing to lose, a few weeks ago David Lang and Craig Bensen (he lives by the Wee Links) hooked up to a city fire hydrant (with permission and a meter on it) and, lo and behold, the water came out like a Yellowstone geyser!
So the Aasen boys and David have been working their tails off at the Jack Hoeven Wee Links and the course should be seeded in the next few days! Depending on the growing season we should be on both courses by mid-summer of 2013. We had a little luck, a lot of passion and a lot of hard work from a lot of good people to get things rolling. Thank you!
A special thank you also to Mary and Rudy Zupetz as they have taken the task of puting the Wee Links clubhouse back together. After about six feet of water in the building, Rudy and Mary coordinated all of the contractors to put the building back in better shape than before. The sheetrock is up, the plumbing all done, the electrical is complete and the carpet is in. The decorating will be done before snow!
Will Souris Valley Golf Course flood again? Probably. Will Souris Valley run out of water sometime? Probably. All my years at Souris we have been low on water more years than we have had too much! I guess we could look at moving the golf course, but with the cost of land and a new design I think the cost would be around $10 million. Mother Nature will always challenge us and we have to be ready to take on the challenge after she has done her thing.
So it has been a very slow and bumpy ride, but we are coming back. A special thanks for a lot of cooperation and for a lot of passionate and talented people on this journey. I realize that not everyone plays golf but it is one more thing that makes our community great for our local golfers and our visitors. We will come back as a community smarter and stronger! Good Luck to all of us!
Steve Kottsick is the golf professional at Souris Valley Golf Course.