Metro: Please don’t replace golf course for regular folks with a sweat lodge

By Dave Lister

The Oregonian’s report by Eric Mortenson that the Metro regional government is studying what to do with Glendoveer Golf Course when its operating agreement comes to an end next year has left us worrying about the fate of our home course.

The quote “better represents Metro’s values” conjures up notions of Frisbee courses, sweat lodges or petting zoos. Who knows what nonsense could result from Metro imposing its idea of sustainability on the majestically wooded parcel that has been sustainable, as a golf course, since 1926?

We’re not talking about golf snobs here. A last recreational bastion of the blue-collar town Portland used to be, Glendoveer is no Pumpkin Ridge. Glendoveer is where the regular folks tee it up. Blue jeans and pocket T-shirts are more common than golf slacks and collars. It’s where your letter carrier, your mechanic and your hairdresser play. You see them every weekend, all ages and races, coughing up the 20 bucks for the nine holes that may be the high point of their week.

And when they check in with the starter to get their ticket punched, there’s a good chance that starter will be 90-year-old Jim Foley.

Foley, who served as a courier with Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarters corps as they raced across Europe during the final year of World War II, likes to joke about his service. “I had a horrible fear of firearms,” he quips, “so they gave me a briefcase to run papers around to the big shots. If it was really important stuff, they handcuffed the briefcase to your wrist.”

After the war, Foley spent 39 years in the insurance industry and raised five children. When he retired in 1987, he started working at Glendoveer, the course he’d lived near and played over the decades. But his retirement career wasn’t entirely by choice. “My wife wanted me out of the house,” he laughs. “She said I was drawing flies.”

Foley filled me in on some history.

“Old man Stenzel, he had about 300 acres out there between Glisan and Halsey. He put in the east course in 1926 and the west in 1928. When he retired, his son Frank took it over. Frank did a good job and made a lot of improvements. But by the late’70s he was tired of it and wanted out. He thought he had a buyer in Adventist hospital. They were going to move in and put a hospital where the east course is and leave the west course, but the neighbors went wild. They figured Glendoveer neighborhood was their own, and it was pretty upscale back then. All that ruckus got the county involved, but they didn’t know how to run a golf course. That’s how Hickey (Glendoveer General Manager Joe Hickey) and the restaurant guys put together the deal with the county. I don’t remember when Metro took it over. Apparently Metro takes over everything the county can’t handle.”

Foley has punched the tickets for visitors from all over the country. “People from back East or the Midwest, they just can’t believe they built a golf course in this forest.”

If you’re out at the course, you can recognize Foley because of the aluminum walker strapped to the back of the cart with the starter’s sign. He uses it after his shift to shuffle into the lounge for a shot of Maker’s Mark. You should follow him in and buy him one. Like the rest of our greatest generation, he’ll soon be a memory. It will be a shame if the golf course he loves so much becomes a memory as well.

Dave Lister is a small-business owner who served on Portland’s Small Business Advisory Council.