The Beginning of the Club
In the late 1800's a group of railroad executives from the Chicago area came to Lake Kegonsa and started a "camp", Camp Collins, on what is now Tracy Lane. Some of the men were golfers and they made an arrangement with a local farmer, Thor Olson to use his meadow. Armed with scythes they cut the long grass and played golf in the stubble. Olson's Meadow would later become the first nine holes of the Stoughton Country Club.
Golf Course “Idea” on Lake Kegonsa
In 1914, O.J. Forton and Elmer Falk, local businessmen, had an idea that a golf course on Lake Kegonsa would be a great thing for Stoughton and a real extra draw for the lake visitors. They approached H.W. Scott, a local tobacco broker and the only man they knew in town that played the game; he took the train to Janesville to play now and then. He was interested as were many public-spirited citizens in town, but World War I got in the way so nothing more was done.
Course Design Renewed
The war ended and 1920 saw the golfing spirit develop again to a point that the group decided to finance a visit by Mr. William Watson of Chicago. He was a golf course architect and famous for some of America's outstanding courses. This action showed the foresight of the group, but at that time land values in this area were very inflated, $300 to $550 per acre so things were put on hold. 1922 saw a decline in land prices and the group saw a real possibility of getting started, led by Mr. Scott who purchased a lake lot from H.T. Anderson that would connect the Olson farm to the lake. An option was taken on the Olson estate which included the meadow, some wild lands, and a wood lot (#10 and #9 holes). Mr. Watson designed the course and Mr. Harry Smead, a Chicago golf course contractor, was engaged to supervise the local crews who did the work. The money was borrowed from the bank and twenty-four local business and professional men signed the note. Stock was sold at $100 per share and there were 234 stockholders, not all of them golfers.
In 1928 the directors began planning a new club house that would cost $15,000. Work was started in 1929 and the dedication of the building took place in June of 1930. The local paper reported that 130 dinner reservations were made with music by Hoel's orchestra of Janesville. Miss Jean Hedemark played piano selections, Paul Skinner sang, and Roundy Coughlin was the speaker. The new two-story club house was a beauty. The men's lockers, lounge and pro shop were located on the first floor. The ladies lounge and lockers, kitchen, dining room (seating 250), offices and a large, screened porch were on the second. The dining room was open to the public for Sunday dinners.
Easter Sunday morning, April 1954, at about 4 a.m. the clubhouse burned. Nothing was saved. The replacement value of the property and contents was estimated at $75,000. There was a balance on the mortgage of $7,500 and the total insurance coverage was just $30,000. There just was not enough money to do an adequate job of replacing the old club house so the directors did the best they could and ended up with a cement block, one story structure that faced the course and ignored the lake side. The dance floor doubled as the dining space. It opened in 1956.
View of the Lake
1968 saw things going a lot better and the board decided to spruce things up a bit. A beautiful new dining room was added with lots of windows facing the lake. The downstairs was left unfinished but there was room for expansion. This room is now the Lake Kegonsa Room. A new pro shop was added, and the locker rooms enlarged. One hundred fifty trees were planted, and the fairway watering system was completed.
In the late 1980’s Donn Wheeler, a board member, started a discussion with Oscar and Shirley Linnerud about adding an additional nine holes. It took a few years to work out the details but an offer to purchase was signed on September 8, 1993, for ninety-two acres of land east of Country Club Road. The back nine was dedicated in July of 1995.
Times were good, the membership growing, bills were paid, and things could not be better, then…. August 18, 2005, a tornado hit the Stoughton area. The dining room roof ended up on the floor, the Lake Kegonsa Room was destroyed, $20,000 in tree and green damage occurred. Another disaster, but not so bad this time as the board had very good insurance. It was an inconvenience for a few months as the club house became much like it was in 1954. Soon everything in the building was better than before.
Half Century Devotion
1974 saw the beginning of a half century commitment to Stoughton Country Club by golf professional Steve Hlavacek. Over the years Steve has worn multiple hats in addition to golf pro including course superintendent, general manager, and instructor. He has helped to oversee many of the initiatives that have contributed to the growth of the club. Through the years he has mentored young golfers to further their game and helped others pursue their interest in other aspects of the golf business. Steve has also opened the doors of Stoughton Country Club to support area communities and their fundraising activities.
Thank You to Many!
I could have mentioned a hundred or more names of folks who made all of this happen, but most of you would not recognize their names. If you drive through the little subdivision just south of the old nine holes you will see Giehler Drive named after the club professional, Scott Circle, the first club president, Duncan Drive, the second club president and Lynch Circle, named after a longtime golfer and friend of the above. These are just a few of the folks who helped bring Stoughton Country Club to all of us. Written and contributed by Douglas Pfundheller and Paul Pitas.