June 21, 2022 at 3:33 p.m.

Generosity around the course

Generosity around the course
Generosity around the course

By Evan Michealson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Meadowlark Hall of Famers helpful to hometown golf

Keeping a golf course in working condition over the course of a Minnesota spring and summer takes indispensable moving parts.

There are, of course, avid golfers who compete on the greens almost daily, and there are the course managers, superintendents and staff who work to make sure the course is as visitable as possible when the weather is nice.

But, included in this wide shuffle of keys to success are volunteers, who are often community members just looking to help out. And there are no brighter examples of these hard-working, behind-the-scenes golf course heroes than Butch and Carol Klaphake and Art and Char Westendorf, a pair of retired couples who devote their time and effort toward making Melrose’s Meadowlark Country Club a better place. The four Melrose natives were inducted into the Meadowlark Country Club Hall of Fame at a jam-packed ceremony June 3. 

“Taking care of flowers in one’s own yard takes dedication and commitment, and the Klaphakes and Westendorfs take on this challenge every year for an entire golf course,” said Jonathan Nietfeld, Meadowlark Country Club manager. “It’s truly amazing the passion people have for Meadowlark Country Club. Butch, Carol, Art and Char are wonderful people and the members and guests are grateful for their contributions to the club.”

The four contributors joined at differing points in time and each find many ways to help the course. Butch has been helping Meadowlark for the past 15 years, driving its 18-foot gang mower for 12 years and lending a hand wherever necessary. 

“I always say, this is just like farming,” said Butch, a longtime dairy farmer. “If you’ve got nothing to do, you’re not looking very hard.”

Art shares a similar sentiment as a beef and hog farmer himself. After retiring from farming, he applied himself to construction and even homemade woodworking and has applied this go-getter attitude to Meadowlark, where he and Char have been golfing since the late 1980s.

“I told Dustin (superintendent Dustin Wessel) this spring, ‘If you’re ever short a guy, let me know,’” Art said. “The grass keeps growing.”

Carol and Char, who have been assisting the golf course for over a half-decade, took up an under valued, yet noticeable, mantle at Meadowlark: taking care of the golf course’s wide array of gorgeous flowers. After noticing the ever-determined Laverne “Luz” Jung,  paying so much attentive detail to these flowers in her 90s, the duo decided to help her out. 

“I just asked her, ‘Do you want some help out there, crawling down by hole No. 2 and 4?’” Carol said. “At both of those, we put about 120 plants in. I just wanted to help her.”

With an assortment that includes a decorative flowerbed full of red salvias, Carol and Char pay important detail to the health of the plants, whether it is removing weeds or checking soil moisture. It has kept them busy in an environment they enjoy.

“We feel like we have our own little oasis here,” Char said.

While each new Meadowlark Hall of Famer has their own role, there is significant overlap, as the group is not afraid to take on any task that comes their way.

“We just all work together,” Butch said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

As a result of their persistent presence, course members from all around the area have come to recognize Meadowlark’s down-to-earth volunteer maintenance crew.

“The people you meet, you meet somebody different almost every time you’re out (on the course),” Art said.

And despite their consistency to creating the best golf course possible, the four were caught off guard when they were told they were being inducted April 4. 

“I was like, ‘Oh my,’” Carol said. “My first response was I wanted to cry.”

In the end, wrangling up each couple’s family and friends into the clubhouse and onto its patio took a great deal of preparation. But once the stars aligned and the induction ceremony took place, it was a glorious moment that outlined just how important Melrose and its golf haven of Meadowlark Country Club has been to them.

“We feel we have to do something for the community,” Char said. “That’s what makes this place great and any community great. It wouldn’t be what it is without volunteers.”


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