Dick Harmon: Orem's Cascade Golf Center in its final weeks of existence
OREM — A Utah Valley landmark will soon disappear, and longtime admirers are scrambling to enjoy it for the final time.
Cascade Golf Center, an 18-hole course near the mouth of Provo Canyon, will become the future site of city soccer fields and a gated residential community. An $800,000 clubhouse will be demolished, and the giant poles that support nets on the driving range will come down within a week as preliminary grading takes place on the first three holes.
Public golf, as the community has known it, will continue on a rearranged layout through July. Then it’s over. For many, it’ll be like peeling away part of their life.
“I started playing golf about 20 years ago, and I started here at Cascade,” said Bobby Noel, a former BYU assistant baseball coach. “For me, losing this golf course, the way it is, is like losing a good friend. I’m going to miss it. I live just five blocks away. It’s a great place.”
For 63-year-old Terry Williams, Cascade saved him. A Vietnam veteran used to flying dangerous missions into Da Nang, Vietnam, the post-traumatic stress syndrome of being in war forced him to quit school and withdraw from people upon his return. Beginning in 1967, playing golf at Cascade gave Williams a peaceful respite; a place to recharge his batteries. Later, after being hit by a car while riding his bike and being told he’d never walk again, he asserts Cascade became a love and joy that propelled him past a suicide attempt and returned him to a productive life.
Said Williams: “This golf course saved my life. Twice.” Williams is a regular, who has been seen trekking the fairways wearing combat boots and pulling a golf cart. “This is the heart and soul of this city,” he said. “Get rid of it, and you might as well call this place Provo.”
As the golf course undergoes a change, Cascade will take the best holes on the valley nine and combine it with the mountain course to provide golf through July during a transition, according to owner Keven Stratton. Players will start on the par-5 No. 4, play 5 and 6, then go up in the hills for No. 15, 16, 17, 18 and then finish on the old 7 and 8 for a par-36 experience.
Literally days before the old valley nine layout disappears forever, yielding to soccer fields and a parking lot, head golf professional Randy Anderson, one of only three PGA professionals to ever work behind Cascade’s desk, found himself with longtime friends and a club in his hand.
Tuesday was the first time in five years Anderson had taken time to break away and play the course.
With rain pouring down, Anderson stood on tee boxes and pounded away. He clipped his approaches and nailed some putts, an action on a realm soon gone.
Playing with zillion-time club champion Irv Hale and his son Johnny, Glynn Smith (considered the Larry Miller car dealer of Alabama who was in town for a wedding), and Richard Pearce, Anderson couldn’t resist. He had lunch with this group, then headed out in a downpour for a final circuit, a tour of the toured.
With the pines leaking steady drips, fairways slick and greens collecting water in the low places, Anderson broke out a new set of TaylorMade irons. He’d been waiting for an excuse. He even hit some shots with the plastic cover on the heads, just because he could.
While the course has served the community for 45 years, Anderson has been part of it for 34 of his 49 years of life.
Standing on the No. 9 green watching Smith bomb in a 20-foot putt, Anderson calmly but satisfyingly rolled in a tricky 12-footer to cheers of witnesses who hoped that would be the script. Anderson tied Smith on the hole because he’d given him a stroke and the two friends, who’d worked their way through a myriad bets spanning decades, walked out of the rain, smiling and soaked.
On June 6, the fancy clubhouse will be reduced to rubble. For the last six weeks of public golf play, operations will move to the original old clubhouse 100 yards to the east. The par-5 No. 1 and the par-3 No. 2 will be the first holes to be plowed under.
“We’ve come full circle,” said Stratton, whose family leased the land from Orem City for golf for nearly five decades.
“It’s been a privilege and a blessing. We’ve got many precious memories and made many friends over the years,” said Stratton. “The next few weeks, with reduced rates and carts, is our way of saying thanks to all as we transition. Thanks for playing.”
And so, in a few days, Cascade Golf Center finishes its reign with a community farewell hug as it makes a transition from golf to something else.
Times really do change most things.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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