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It's par for course as legend lives on
It's par for course as legend lives on
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
An era is coming to an end in Munson Township.
Since 1968, the Alexander family has operated the Legend Lake Golf Club, an 18-hole course on Auburn Road.
It was the dream of Reece Alexander, a professional golfer, who designed and single-handedly built the course on a former dairy farm over a two-year period. Mr. Alexander died in 2006.
This week, its new owner, LLGC LLC, a group of investors, will go before the Munson Township board of zoning appeals to seek a conditional-use permit to continue operating the private course.
Todd Petersen, representing the new owners, said the 265 acres includes the clubhouse, the golf course, vacant land to the east off Thwing Road and three rental homes.
According to the Geauga County Auditor's Office, the property sold for $2.11 million.
While improvements are planned, the course will continue to operate much as it has over the past 44 years, Mr. Petersen said. There are plans to build the membership on the "very walkable, very playable" course, as well as promote the 150-seat banquet room for rentals and improve the food quality, he said. "They just want to roll the capital back into it."
Patrick Alexander, the son of the club's founder, said his father originally planned to build a golf and hunt club on the former dairy farm. But he abandoned the idea of the hunt club because of the expense, he said.
Mr. Alexander said he has one hope for the future of the golf course. "Nothing would make us happier than to see Reece Alexander's dream carry on for another 44 years," he said.
His father attended the University of Texas, where he and his team won the 1948 and 1950 Southwest Conference golf championships. His coach at that time was Harvey Penick, a name recognized by golfers everywhere. Mr. Penick's insights into the mental aspects of the game were put into the "Little Red Book," often considered to be the bible of golf.
Growing up, Mr. Alexander said, he only knew Mr. Penick as "Uncle Harvey." When he read Mr. Penick's book, he almost cried, he said, and he wondered if some of the content came from his father. "Every word virtually sounded like my dad," he said.
Mr. Alexander said he and his mother, Louise, had been planning the sale for some time and are thrilled at the outcome of the transaction.
"Paramount through the sales process was the golf privileges --membership arrangements and, just as important, the circumstances for our dedicated and loyal staff. So rest assured we did everything we could to keep Legend Lake the best private, affordable golf club in our area for years to come," he said.
Although the Alexander family was recognized in 2007 for the contributions it made to the township in a "Munson Notables" ceremony, Mr. Alexander said his father's idea was not readily accepted when he arrived in 1966.
"Township officials were not thrilled with the concept or idea, so Mr. Larry Dolan, then a junior partner of Thrasher, Dinsmore and Dolan, takes on the task of aiding the 41-year-old Reece Alexander with counsel and the public relations nightmare," he said.
Mr. Alexander said he believes his father ran into opposition simply because he was an outsider at the time. They feared the change that newcomers would bring, he said.
But Reece Alexander prevailed, and, in early August 1968, he and a handful of members launched the first tee shot.
Patrick Alexander said his father changed the landscape of private golf clubs with that shot, employing a belief that private clubs could be affordable and be "golf only." Through the years, he said, his father continued to make that a priority, keeping membership and initiation fees lower than other clubs in the area.
Reece Alexander continued to tinker with the course, making improvements from 1971 through 1979, adding 26 bunkers and thousands of trees to make a more "stylized, strategic golf course" for its players.
The story goes that the course got its name after a lake on the property. But it was considered a possible hazard for area children and was filled in, thus becoming a legend.
In 1975, Reece Alexander won the Northeast Ohio PGA Senior Match Play Championship and was named player of the year.
Mr. Alexander said his parents were responsible for providing hundreds of jobs to area children.
Although golf courses sometimes get a bad rap environmentally, Mr. Alexander said, his parents were some of the best stewards of the land. He said the course provides a great filtering ground for water and supports fauna and flora. Legend Lake also became the first golf club to "pick up" fairway grass clippings for composting, almost unheard of for a northern golf course, he said.
Mr. Alexander said his parents began receiving offers on the property by 1999 but decided to renovate and expand the business instead. They installed a new banquet and pub rooms, a new snack shop, a new kitchen, new locker rooms, a new pro shop and office. Also at that time, they added new "experimental" green drainage, now an industry standard.
Mr. Alexander said Legend Lake has served over 7,500 individual members in 43 years. That amounts to 50 million golf strokes, which included three double eagles, 400 eagles, 220,000 birdies and 3 million pars, he said.
Charity events held on the course are credited with raising nearly $1 million for local charities.
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