WARSAW – It’s one of the toughest golf courses to play in northern Indiana and steeped with iconic vision. In a week’s time, those will all be just memories in the mist.
The announcement last week that Stonehenge Golf and Country Club would cease its golf operations on Nov. 17 was a shocking blow for a course that is loaded with history. Not only has the course catered to some of the area’s golf elite, but has hosted stacks of high school, amateur and professional tournaments, furthering the course as destination golf not just for the locals, but those from around the country. That leaves a shocking feeling in the collective hands of the local golf community, including many who call Stonehenge home.
“Stonehenge has been a great course for both our men’s and women’s golf programs to compete and practice over the years,” began Grace College athletic director Chad Briscoe. Grace held its home competition matches as well as its Lancer Open athletic fundraiser there. “We have been thankful for such a great golf course in our community that has provided leisure and athletic opportunities for golf participants of all ages.”
Both Grace College and Warsaw Community High School have partnerships with Stonehenge for its men’s and women’s golf programs to use for competition and daily operations. Neither Briscoe or WCHS athletic director Dave Anson had an immediate fallback plan on a new home, Anson seconding Briscoe’s notion of thanks to the course as host to its teams.
The IHSAA will also have to find a new home for at least its sectional and regional tournaments. Warsaw hosted at Stonehenge for the girls sectional round in the fall and the boys held its regional at the course in the spring. For many, that is where the impact of Stonehenge will be lost, as high school golfers from around the area prepared months in advance for a shot at glory at Stonehenge, knowing it was much tougher to win there than most other courses in the area.
“That’s really unfortunate for such a great golf course in our area to have to close,” said NorthWood girls golf coach Adam Yoder, whose team won the last sectional tournament at Stonehenge in September. “It’s sad for the golfers that enjoy the course, obviously, but for all of the staff in the shop, maintenance area, etc., it’s really tough as they are going to be looking for work. First and foremost, our heart goes out to them.”
Added Tad Nieter, head coach of Warsaw’s girls golf team and also a former Warsaw boys golfer himself, “Stonehenge holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve played Stonehenge since I was in middle school, building many memories with family, friends, and teammates. From playing every day in the summer as a junior and being mentored by Denny Hepler and Don Dicken there, to coaching the Warsaw boys and girls golf teams, the memories are countless. Stonehenge was foundational in my upbringing in the game of golf, along with every junior in our community. It drew the largest tournaments in the state, even national AJGA tournaments. As a player and coach, I’m sad for the golfing community. I’ve had several phone calls from friends in all parts of Indiana who are saddened by the news. The memories built there will not be forgotten.”
Watch WCHS graduate Jon Schram become a legend at Stonehenge with a miracle eagle to help is 2013 team win the IHSAA Regional championship.
Both Grace coaches Denny Hepler and Denny Duncan have fond memories of the course, and had a chance to watch their kids grow up on the course as well. Both have daughters that have played at high levels and Stonehenge’s course was along the route.
“The closing of Stonehenge is a devastating loss to our community,” Duncan said. “I have been a member, and have played most of my golf at Stonehenge for many years. I can’t count the number of great times I’ve experienced there playing myself, and watching high school events. It’s also a blow for my team. The proximity to campus and quality of the course are great assets to our team.”
Continued Hepler, “The Stonehenge Pro-Am charity classic was the highlight of its great run. Twelve PGA Tour players came here every Labor Day for eight years and played with our members. In 93 two Ryder Cup players, Payne Stewart and Jim Gallagher were here two weeks prior to the Ryder Cup in England. Over $100,000 was distributed to nearly 20 different local charities. The social parties were exceptional. I remember a couple murder mystery parties that were so much fun. Numerous wedding receptions including two of our own kids. We hosted two Indiana Opens, an Indiana Amateur, a Western Jr., a US Open Qualifier and a US Amateur Qualifier. The greens in the 90s were known as some of the best and fastest in the state.”
WCHS boys golf coach Rich Haddad also had a personal relationship with the course. Not only did Haddad teach the game to Warsaw’s high school program that past two years, but also has his name listed among the greats to ever play at the course as a multi-year course champion.
“Stonehenge continues to be one of the best courses in northern Indiana, it is sad to think it doesn’t have a future,” Haddad said. “I am hopeful that a solution to continue, and even improve this important asset to the community and the game will be found. Warsaw Tigers as a program has benefited greatly from Stonehenge being our home course. Not only has it pushed the boys to improve their game and rise up to the challenge, other teams both love to come and play and find the course one of the best they get to experience.
“As a serious golfer myself, this is where I love to play and hope I get to continue that in the future.”
Others, like Triton head coach Jack Carpenter, whose son, Griffyn, is the course pro at Stonehenge, join Haddad in remaining optimistic the course can right itself with some new direction.
“I would prefer to stay positive in hopes it will reopen and that the memories will continue,” Jack Carpenter said.
“With any business, unfortunately there is always the threat of something like this happening, it’s just the way things work,” Griffyn Carpenter said. Stonehenge general manager Billy Hutchinson did not return comment for this story. “It’s just something you don’t think about or can tell yourself to be prepared for, they just kind of happen. I think it was a little 50/50 on coming out of nowhere and not wanting to get a call like this. I didn’t think we would close our doors so in that aspect it came out of nowhere but I knew it could be a possibility and it was a call I didn’t want to think about ever getting.
“Memories you make are only as good as the people you share them with and I couldn’t think of better people to serve and than the people here. It was always like a dream come true in my eyes. I hope one day Stonehenge will flourish again and give kids the opportunity to make the same memories I have made. I can only hope for the best possible future for this place.”
Should Stonehenge not find new direction for 2019, it would become yet another course casualty the area has seen in the past decade joining Timber Ridge in Benton, Little Bighorn in Pierceton, Sprig-O-Mint in Bremen, Big Boulder in Milford and Tri-Way in Plymouth among the courses that have gone under. In addition, other area courses like Rozella Ford in Warsaw and Maxwelton in Syracuse have changed ownership in recent years in hopes of maintaining continued service going forward.