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Shorewood Golf Course’s 90-year run comes to an end

By Heather Graves

GREEN BAY – For Rick Warpinski, managing the Shorewood Golf Course at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay was more than a job.

For him, it was a second home.

“My kids grew up at the course,” Warpinski said. “I recall playing a final round at the course (last fall) with my family.”

Warpinski spent more than three decades at the university, starting as a student and ending as director of the Shorewood Golf Course from 2003-2019.

Warpinski moved on professionally, but he said hearing the course would close permanently hit him hard.

“I only wish the closing of Shorewood would have been known while it was still running, so those that really enjoyed playing the course could have played it one last time,” he said.

UWGB Chancellor Mike Alexander announced July 8, after 90 years of golf, the university would permanently shut down the course.

“Despite our best attempts to open the Shorewood Golf Course this summer, we will be unable to do so,” Alexander said. “Shorewood has been a significant drain on our resources for many years. Interest has been waning for many years and it is not critical to our primary mission of student success.”

He said the university explored options to keep Shorewood open.

“We even tried to do a request for proposals for someone to operate the golf course for us, we couldn’t get anyone to even make an offer because they felt it was not a financially viable space,” he said. “We tried this year to hire a manager to try and keep it open and operate the grounds, and we just couldn’t get anybody hired. Nobody would take the job.”

Alexander said few students utilized the course.

“We had five students that were signed up as regular golfers,” he said.

However, Alexander said he acknowledges the significance of the loss.

“I understand that this will be a disappointment to those in the community who have used the Shorewood Golf Course for many years… While what to do with the Shorewood Golf Course has been wrestled with for many years, I believe now is the right time to make this change and continue to build the momentum we have as a university truly on the rise.”

A look back

The course was created in 1931 by a group of local golfers who banded together to engineer and open a nine-hole course overlooking the bay.

Designed by Fritz Schaller to take advantage of the land’s rugged terrain, Warpinski said until its closure, Shorewood was the second oldest course in the county, one of only two in the city limits of Green Bay and one of only three courses owned by the state – along with University Ridge and Peninsula State Park Golf Course.

In 1937, it was expanded to 18 holes.

Warpinski said the course thrived for years as a private club up through the 1960s.

“It even hosted many Brown County amateur tournaments before Brown County Golf Course came along in the mid-1950s,” he said.

Then, in the late 1960s, the state acquired the land and reduced it back to nine holes, and UWGB was built on part of the site. The university moved to its current location in 1969.

“The current nine holes is a redesign of the 18 completed as part of the building of the UWGB campus,” Warpinski said. “The Weidner Center, Cofrin Library, Studio Arts and Theatre Hall buildings, and adjacent grounds, are located where the other former holes were from the original course. It truly is a unique feature of the campus and state.”

He said the course won numerous awards, including two State of Wisconsin 9-hole Course of the Year awards in 2008 and 2016, as well as two course appearance and maintenance awards in 2009 and 2018.

“The history of the course will be missed as it approaches its 90th year in existence,” Warpinski said. “I had hoped to play the course during its centennial celebration in 2031.”

Retired golf professional, former Shorewood employee and an avid visitor of the course, Bill Lindmark, said the course’s natural setting was what made it unique.

“The nine holes they kept in line with thousands of mature oak trees,” Lindmark said. “A shorter course, but super tight and still tons of fun for all levels, and wildlife galore. Shorewood also has many hickory trees, which attract people who love hickory nuts, but you (had) to beat the wildlife to them. Deer love them so much that golfers can walk within feet of them in the fall.”

Lindmark said unfortunately, Shorewood couldn’t withstand the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last 10 years, Shorewood just couldn’t sustain itself with the addition of other area courses, higher prices, higher expenses, other things to do and I guess the pandemic was the last straw,” he said.

Looking forward

Alexander said work has already started on transitioning the golf course into a student recreation and engagement center, which includes expanding the university’s recreational offerings, providing meeting spaces for students, relocating and improving the community disc golf course and establishing an official point of entry, with parking, to the Cofrin Arboretum.

“There are all kinds of other things that we’re thinking about – opportunities for our cross country team, possibly for nordic skiing, outdoor rec to have an outdoor center, which they currently don’t have,” he said. “And these are things students are really interested in and we get a lot of requests from students wanting to participate. It is going to take us some time, obviously, to do that, but I think over the next year we’ll be in a pretty good position.”

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