Golfers fear JBER's Eagleglen course will be closed this year

Mike Nesper
Megan Warren blasts out a sand trap in the Junior golf championships at Eagleglen Golf Course on Tuesday, August 6, 2013.
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News Kyla Carson tees off on the back nine in the Junior golf championships at Eagleglen Golf Course on Tuesday, August 6, 2013. 130806
Bob Hallinen
View from the 14th green towards the area of the 15th hole tee box that was washed away by flooding from Ship Creek at Eagleglen Golf Course on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News

Will Eagleglen Golf Course be open this summer?

That's what the Alaska Golf Association would like to know.

AGA executive director Jeff Barnhart began making inquiries two weeks ago after hearing rumors that the 18-hole course on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson might be closing. He's still waiting for a definitive answer.

"They're not saying," he said.

JBER has not responded to repeated and specific questions about the course, including whether it is closing, how many rounds were played there last year, and how often it was used by civilian golfers. JBER spokeswoman Erin Eaton said those questions will be answered Thursday in a press release.

"They're weighing the information that they have with regard to budget and usage, cost of maintenance, etc., and then looking at what the alternatives are," she said.

Barnhart is expecting bad news.

"I am not hearing anything that is positive," he said.

The two men who managed the course last year -- Mark Dolesji and Rob Nelson -- no longer work at the course. Doleski retired and Nelson is now the manager at Fox Hollow's 9-hole course.

Nelson said JBER's cost-cutting plan, made while he was still working at Eagleglen, called for one manager to run all three courses.

Should Eagleglen close, it would be a major blow to the golfing community, he said.

"It's a tragedy if it closes," he said. "It's a wonderful golf course."

An Eagleglen closure would leave Anchorage with three 18-hole courses-- Anchorage Golf Course and two other military courses, the Moose Run Hill Course and Moose Run Creek Course.

Nelson said talk of closing Eagleglen --designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. more than four decades ago -- started last year. The assistant manager for five years, Nelson said he suggested limiting hours at one of the three military courses on days when business is slow.

He said his recommendation fell on deaf ears.

"I don't think they've looked at every possibility," Nelson said. "A total shutdown isn't necessary."

Four courses are needed to handle the volume of golfers who play Thursdays through Sundays, Nelson said.

"Anchorage Golf Course is already full," he said. "They're the busiest course in town."

AGC general managerRich Sayers said he would expect AGCto pick up some extra rounds. He predicted most of the rounds will be dispersed equally among Anchorage and the two 18-hole courses in the Valley -- Settlers Bay and Palmer Golf Course.

The Valley stands to make the most gains, Nelson said.

"I think that's where you will see most of the players go," he said.

And some golfers would keep their clubs in the bag, Sayers said.

"You would see a few rounds that didn't get played," he said.

A Eagleglen closure would also leave dozens of tournaments in question. According to Nelson, more than 40 were on tap for the upcoming season.

"Where do they go?" Barnhart said.

Sayers said he hasn't received any calls regarding a venue change for tournaments, but he has fielded questions concerning Eagleglen's future.

So has Barnhart. As many as 50 in a day, he said, all advocating for Eagleglen.

"I have been inundated with phone calls and emails," Barnhart said.

Barnhart has enlisted Sen. Lisa Murkowski's office for help getting answers about Eagleglen from JBER.

Eaton said the review process Eagleglen is going through is customary for all Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs. Such programs encompass everything from student services to leisure activities for service members and their families.

Barnhart, the former manager at Moose Run, said there's pressure on the JBER courses to make a profit to support other MWR programs.

"I know the game," he said.

Once JBER opened Eagleglen to civilians, Barnhart said, it became part of the community.

"It is open to the public," he said. "It is part of us."

Civilians accounted for about the 60 percent of the rounds played last season at Eagleglen, Nelson said.

While JBER doesn't have to accept input from the public, Barnhart said, it would be appreciated.

"If I was running a big business, I would want to hear from my customers," he said.

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335.

 


By MIKE NESPER
mnesper@adn.com