Dan Budzius grew up in Dwight and spent most of his summers hanging out at Dwight Country Club. He knows what it means for a small community to have a golf course readily at its disposal. “It can make a huge impact on junior golf and kids not only in golf, but what the game of golf in general does for you,” he said. Budzius, who helped Dwight High School capture the 1980 Class A State title and later played at Illinois State, believes Jim and Carol Ring are bringing that same feel to this Woodford County town with some help from another Redbird golf alumnus.
Metamora Fields Golf Club, owned by the Ring family, is set for a July 11 grand opening. The 18-hole course was designed by D.A. Weibring and his Dallas-based firm, Weibring-Wolfard Golf Design. It is located two blocks north of Illinois 116 across the street from the city pool. A spectacular-looking 25,000-square foot clubhouse, complete with a full-scale restaurant and banquet facility, opened in December.
Budzius is president of Golf Resources Group, a management company in partnership with Weibring-Wolfard Golf Design. He is serving as Metamora Fields’ general manager as Golf Resources gets the course up and running. “Dan understands that small-town, small-community atmosphere up there,” said Weibring. “He’s spent a lot of time up there getting them geared up and ready to go. They’re off to a great start.”
Weibring’s former ISU teammate, Bill Kirkendall, is Golf Resource’s chief executive officer. Another ISU graduate, Jeff Roche, will serve as Metamora Fields’ director of golf. Roche was an assistant pro at ISU Golf Course from 1992-95 and has been Bradley’s men’s golf coach since 2006. When the Rings sold their family business, National Wheel-O-Vator Co. in Roanoke in 2008, they decided a golf course with an upscale clubhouse might be a good thing for Metamora. Never mind that the Rings were not golfers. The Rings were referred to Weibring, whose company built TPC at Deere Run in the Quad Cities and did the renovation for the ISU Golf Course in 2001 (the course was renamed Weibring Golf Club at Illinois State in 2007). After playing in a Champions Tour event in Des Moines, Iowa, Weibring drove over and met the couple at the McDonald’s restaurant near the 195 acres of farmland the Rings eventually purchased.
Weibring encouraged the Rings to do a feasibility study to see if the area could support such a project (which will include a 102-lot housing subdivision), especially with the soft economic conditions for golf courses. “They were pretty much committed,” said Weibring. “When you see a property like that you think links because it didn’t have trees.” Work on the course began in 2009 with Turf Solutions Group of Peoria providing the construction. Thanks to plenty of dirt moving, eight man-made lakes and the planting of about 1,000 trees, the result is a gently rolling layout that Weibring hopes will attract scratch golfers to novices.
There are bentgrass tees, fairways and greens with bluegrass rough. The course has 45 strategically placed bunkers, but none that will have to be carried to get to a green. Collection areas around the greens, much like at Weibring Golf Club, are prevalent. There are five sets of tees per hole. The championship tees will measure about 7,100 yards. Cost will be $49 on weekdays and $59 on weekends, including cart, although the course can easily be walked. “It’s amazing for a cornfield,” said Budzius.
The practice facility located near the clubhouse should entice the serious golfer. The driving range, set to open May 4, will have bunkers on the side and a green to simulate what happens on the course. There also is a practice green and chipping area with bunkers. Huge balconies on two levels of the clubhouse provide scenic views of the four lakes by the ninth and 18th holes as well as the driving range and practice area. “It’s really going to attract a lot of different people,” said Weibring. “The type of feel when you come in the front door is what Jim and Carol Ring wanted. They had a vision of what they wanted, and we tried to work with them to deliver that.”
Weibring expects Metamora Fields will be able to draw golfers from as far away as Chicago and the Quad Cities along with those from Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Central Illinois. Budzius, thinking back to his days growing up, sees another group that will strongly benefit. “When you’re a kid and can jump on your bike and put your clubs over your shoulder and get to the golf course, that’s when you know you’re in a community set for golf,” he said.