The History of Lakeview Golf Club - Peter Doolittle, January 5, 2005
Contributors: John Walker, Roger Morse, Dot Kelly, and Connie Toce
In the late 1960’s, the City of Delray Beach, by many accounts, was a sleepy retirement area nestled half way between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. John Walker, a local general contractor and builder who had done a lot of local work at the likes of Pompano Park, saw the potential of the mostly undeveloped territory west of Congress Avenue. He purchased a stretch of property east of Military Trail along Linton Boulevard, and quickly had the area re-zoned through the City of Delray for multiple family units, and built nine units per acre over the next year. After some deliberation, he named the development “Shady Woods”, as it backed up on a beautiful 125-acre plot that was full of lovely Pine Trees where the construction workers would enjoy a break from the hot sun. During the Shady Woods construction project, Mr. Walker became more and more intrigued by this large “shady” lot sitting behind his development. He began to research it and thought it may be a great spot for a golf course. Ever the marketing guru, Mr. Walker felt that Delray Beach needed a quality Executive-length Golf Course, as the retirement community would enjoy the shorter length and subsequently quicker round of play. His construction background enabled him to do some rudimentary math, and he easily determined that the fill he could produce from the land and sell for local construction would eventually be worth more than the cost of the land itself. He negotiated with the City and purchased the lot in 1971.
Coincidentally, several of his favorite sub-contractors were hard at work building a ramp from I-95 to Linton Boulevard. He met with their group leader, and hired the team to come out and begin removing fill while he drew up plans for the new golf course. Fortunately, his new construction team had experience on golf course renovations, and they were able to remove trees, pull stumps, and build tees and greens in a very short time frame – just under 7 months from start to finish. Meanwhile, Mr. Walker decided to use the areas where he had removed the most extensive amounts of fill as lakes, to add some aesthetic value and difficulty to the course. Each of the lakes was hooked together with culverts, to enhance the drainage qualities of the operation. In the area to the south of the 18th hole, Mr. Walker built a full service driving range. Finally, he set down a working trailer with electricity and plumbing and set up shop in the back office. The trailer had a clerk’s desk, and off the back was a screened-in porch for watching golfers bring in their round on the 18th green. Down below was a large cellar for golf carts, maintenance equipment, mowers and golf bags.
Towards the end of 1972, the course was ready, and all that was left was to hire a staff. Mr. Walker hired Tony Dunlae as his first pro, a very personable local. In the first season, Curt Siegal, the head pro at Laurel Valley in Ligonier, PA, came down for the winter from Pennsylvania as the Assistant Pro and partial owner. Mr. Walker served as on-site accountant and GM. The final order of business was to name the course. As the lakes had become the showcase signature of the property, he decided on the name “Lakeview”, as he had also built a home for himself just to the northwest of the sixth hole with a fabulous view of the largest lake, which he named “Lake Helen” as a tribute to his wife. Even today, Mr. Walker and his wife of 58 years, enjoy an afternoon cocktail overlooking Lake Helen and the sixth hole green.
Without any marketing, advertising, and little fanfare, Lakeview Golf Course opened for business in the fall of 1972. As the course grew in popularity throughout the 1970’s, the management group introduced ten-play cards, which are still used at the course today. Their best marketing, however, was a friendly staff and a well manicured course, traits that current management deems essential as well. By the mid-1970’s, Lakeview had a steady following of groups that had become “regulars”. This led to the inaugural league at Lakeview, known as the “Lakeview Men’s Golf Association”. It mainly consisted of surrounding area residents, who were part of the Lakeview Civic Association. Shortly thereafter, in 1978, many of the wives of the LMGA formed the first ladies league, the Lakeview Women’s Golf Association, with Dot Kelly acting as the first President.
In the late 1970’s and into the early 1980’s, Lakeview Golf Course became a social haven for its league members and friends. Other leagues, consisting of various business organizations and housing development groups, began to join the Lakeview fold, to ensure prime-time tee times and preferred rates for their members. The clubhouse would often be rocking with theme and holiday parties as a true family atmosphere was formed.
At the end of the 1970’s, John Walker approached his good friend and fellow member of the LMGA, Clarence Kelly, about the possibility of some of the local homeowners buying into the club. The negotiations went fairly smoothly, and on April 26, 1980, John Walker sold the club to “The Tens” (which became their affectionate nickname – being ten families). John Walker himself was the tenth family, but no longer held voting privileges in board meetings. Clarence Kelly became the first President of the newly formed “Tens”.
Throughout the 1980’s, the new ownership group invested in the course to improve the greens and fairways, added some foliage to add color to the course, and added some further selections in the snack bar. Furthermore, the club began selling some of the basics in the pro shop – balls, tees, and limited clubs. They kept the same fantastic grounds crew, with Rudy Geiger as the Maintenance Director. Norma Stickney became the manager, and Liz Mallott ran the pro shop. Their husbands, Charlie Mallott and Jack Stickney, became the full-time outside staff, handing the bags and ranging the course.
In the mid-1980’s, the group sold the driving range, located to the southeast of the 18th fairway, which was quickly developed into single family homes that now stretch along the course. In 1984, one of the original “Tens”, Harold Cashman, passed away and his wife Connie (now Connie Toce), became the first female board member with voting rights. Even to this day, Connie and Dot Kelly still remain active with the LWGA, and occasionally show up to various events.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, several exciting stories emerged at Lakeview Golf Course. The Club made local and national news (even finding its way into Golf Magazine) as a customer hit a ball into the Monastery located behind the 9th green. A Nun, who happened to be walking by, picked up his ball and tossed it back. As legend had it, she blessed the ball and on the very next shot, the gentleman hit a hole in one! After this exposure, the Monastery began selling “Blessed Golf Balls” (although they don’t guarantee a hole-in-one on each shot!).
However, since the course is an Executive Par-60 with fourteen par-three holes, there have been an enormous amount of hole-in-ones over the years. On January 28, 1995, Lakeview again made local and national news as Cy Young, a one-armed golfer, made two hole-in-ones in the same round (no, he wasn’t using a “Blessed Golf Ball”)!
In the early 1990’s, the property was re-zoned from “AAA” to “Open Space”, meaning that going forward, the course must remain a golf course or become a part, never to be developed into houses, condos or office buildings. Unfortunately, several of the original “Tens” had passed away or moved away, and the course no longer had the management structure that it had once enjoyed in the early 1980’s. The remaining shareholders decided to sell the course to the City of Delray Beach, which had long been suiting the owners.
On July 15, 1996, Lakeview Golf Club became a City of Delray Beach property, and the sister course to Delray Beach Golf Club, a championship-sized course located less than a mile northeast off of Atlantic Avenue. Delray Beach Golf Club had been managed by Dubin & Associates, a local management company, since 1990, and since the purchase, Lakeview had been managed by the same group, which has since changed it’s name to JCD Sports Group. To match the other course, Lakeview’s name changed from Lakeview Golf Course to Lakeview Golf Club.
Since the purchase, customers of Lakeview Golf Club can get discounts for being City of Delray Beach Resident Card holders, and league play has expanded to nearly 40% of the roughly 54,000 annual rounds of golf. The clubhouse was rebuilt in 1999 to expand the seating area, and in 2004, Lakeview Golf Club was listed as one of the of the “Top 50 Short Courses in America” by Golf Range Magazine.
Today, Lakeview continues the family-oriented atmosphere with it’s long-standing customers, and has seventeen leagues, year in, year out. It’s annual tournaments include the “Frog Lounge” Shotgun, the “Goblin” Halloween tournament, the “Jingle Bell Scramble” Christmas Tournament, and the “Tykes for Spikes” junior tournament. The Lakeview Civic Association still holds an annual scramble, known as the “Caddy Shack”, and the “Sunday Couples League” has continuously played on the first Sunday of the month since the 1970s. In addition, Lakeview hosts monthly events for various organizations and charities such as the Special Olympics of Palm Beach County and the Children’s Golf Foundation of West Palm Beach. Eight of the twenty some-odd employees at Lakeview are members of various leagues, ensuring the true “family atmosphere” will continue forever!