I remember playing a tournament at Brighton Park as a junior golfer. Kyle Gay, who had just returned from the USGA national junior, was in the field, and I held my own with him. It was then that I kinda fell in love with Brighton Park. I learned later that it was designed by William Harries, who had learned the craft from the great Walter Travis. Harries also designed Sheridan Park (butchered by the town of Tonawanda a few decades ago) and Brookfield, along with Audubon and others.

When I read about the Town of Tonawanda’s proposed plan to gut Tonawanda golfers once again, I shook my head sadly. The supervisor of the town claims that golfers are trending toward 12-hole rounds of golf, but while this may be true, they always have the option to play 18. And these twelve-hole courses are nearly always par-three courses, or courses that have the flexibility to transform holes into multi-par holes. I’ll give you more on this later.

Once you steal golfing land and trade it for houses, you never get it back. Ever. It will be houses forever. Every time I drive past the former mud flats, along the north side of the Youngman (the I-290) Expressway (west of Military road) I marvel at how much money those warehouses must bring into the town. I do the same when I leave the City of Tonawanda, heading west along the Niagara River, and think about the Amazon, et al., properties. Those are all town properties. Are you telling me that they have been added over the past fifteen years and the twon STILL has to raise taxes on its residential properties? I find it hard to believe that building 20 new houses will do more than those business properties.

When Amherst began to consider what to do with its Audubon golf course and its Westwood property, I was contacted by Mr. Kulpa’s office regarding my thoughts. I indicated that the town could bring in an architect (I mentioned Tom Doak) to reroute the remaining, Audubon land, and create a course with twelve holes that could flex into 18. I didn’t hear back from Mr. Kulpa. I don’t expect Mr. Emminger to call me on this one, sadly.

Did you know that Sheridan Park once held a USGA championship? It did. Back in 1962. Then, the town sold off a large chunk of the course, south of Sheridan drive. It’s a testament to the course that the remaining holes are so strong, that the course is still one of the toughest area tests. The holes that replaced the lost corridor are decent holes, but nothing like the ones that passed into history. When this sacrifice was made, an 18-hole course was preserved. That’s not th case with the 2024 plan.

If you’re not familiar with golf, there’s this thing called “the turn.” Golfers “turn” from the front nine to the back nine. If you remove one-third of the golf holes, it makes sense that you will lost one-third of the revenue. Which department (parks and recreation? youth sports?) will feel the pain of this recession?

I wonder what kind of golf course could be developed along the Niagara River, where the Cherry Farm landfill sits. Put nine holes there, and reduce Brighton to nine holes. That might do the trick. Folks are more likely to leave Tonawanda if they lose recreation opps and perqs, than if their property taxes go up.

I’ve lived in Tonawanda City (no muni golf) and Grand Island (no muni golf) and I grew up in Eggertsville. I know that residents of the former two municipalities would love to have a season-pass option. GI has Beaver Island, but it’s a state park, and no longer offers a season-pass option to its junior and seniors. Adult golfers between junior and senior age never had a season-pass option.

Eggertsville is a part of Amherst town, and as such, has the Audubon course and its adjacent par-three for its residents. The season pass at Audubon is good for the 18-hole course, but a fee must be played to play the short course. As a junior, it was the opportunity to purchase a season plass and play lots of muni golf that allowed me to enter the game. I hope that Tonawanda doesn’t make a mistake by eliminating six golf holes, to build a few houses.

What will surface, unfortunately, is a glut of adult golfers at the Sheridan Park course, and an exile of junior golfers to other facilities. In 2015-2016, I traveled the country, visiting schools similar to the one where I teach. At one school in Sacramento, teachers talked about the neighborhood next door. They said that the land was available for purchase by the school. Even though the institution had the money, it passed. That land will never come back again, they said. I empathized.

Look beyond the moment, supervisors, and consider future generations of young, middle, and elderly golfers. That land will never come back again.