Located on 140 rolling acres of former farmland near the intersection of Route 31E and Marshall Rd. in Town of Ridgeway, Shelridge Country Club has matured over a half century and today draws its membership of 230 from Orleans, Niagara, Erie and Genesee Counties. It boasts a good draw between low-handicapped near-scratch performers and plenty of likeable “duffers.” In 1995 it ranked among the 25 most challenging gold courses in Western N.Y.
For Shelridge, the years between 1960 and 2000 had seen times of highs and lows, successes and mere dreams, but consistent community loyalty, and finally in the 1980s the hope of expanding from nine to 18 holes was a done deal. Then, between 1989 and the mid-1990s a genuine turnaround in moral and facilities took place under a succession of presidents, Gerald LaMont, Dr. A.J. Monacelli Pat Petrie, Ronald L. Thomas (7 terms), plus supt. Ken McKeever, Bruce Foley Pro Dudley Jackson and some determined directors. As this update is written, one board member, Matt Bush, has just passed his fourth year as president.
PGA professionals have played their part in the step-by-step growth of SCC over the past three decades ---notably George Moore and currently David Green, two blesses with special affection by the membership. Green has greatly expanded “family golf” among the membership, has welded a strong ties with the W.N.Y. Golf Association, Buffalo District Golf Association, and New York State Golf Association. In 2017 we are happy to have added a full-time assistant pro, Jeremy Anderson.
THE COURSE WAS ONLY A THOUGHT
As noted in the Introduction, success and pre-eminence were not always within the grasp of Shelridge. The first 25 years had time of financial struggle and a potpourri of ideas – some good and some bad. But through it all there was a kind of community “heart and love of gold” that made for survival. The origin of the club can be traced to a Friday afternoon in the summer of 1956 when several businessmen, Bob Walters, Jack Zimmerman and Joe Brundage, relaxed over drinks at a Ridgeway Corners pub. It proves the theory that many a good idea has been hatched in a barroom.
The pervasive question that afternoon was, “Why not a golf course for Medina?” Within days the men drew Bob Vosler and Van Hungerford into their circle and began widening their mission. They approached golf-minded Medinans like Henry G. Pollard, who later became long-time Shelridge gold chairman. And they even “hit up” friends who had absolutely no thought of golf, but would be kind enough to fork over $200 for a contribution. With that figure as “dues,” they were off and running with an organization they dubbed The Medina Golf Association.
As they slowly got some good village-wide responses, it became a heady and energetic time. The organizers contacted the National Golf Assoc. for guidance in establishing a club. They arranged public meetings and speeches by professionals. And showing plenty of moxie, they even roamed Medina’s outskirts looking for a possible golf course site. One evening they lured a professional golf architect who was doing a Rochester job and drove him to Medina to pass judgment on a potential lay-out. There was no turning back at this point...
"Drank and Dreamed"
THE FIRST ONES
The men who “drank and dreamed” and Ridgeway Corners were now committed and in due time became the golf club’s first officers, Waters became the founding president and Hungerford took on the vital post of chief fund-raiser. The initial board of directors representing a community cross-section consisted of Paul Parsons, John Garlock, John Lapp Sr., R. Louis Walters, Milford Phinney, Barbara A. Balcerzak, Knud Hansen, Bernard Hat, Helen Levanduski, Joseph Sadler and Stanley Van Horn.
Where to Build?
THE DECISION THAT MATTERED.
The two years between 1956 and 1958 were years of hard-sell. The site was chosen, just west of the then-famous Apple Grove Inn, and two local farmland owners, Floyd Smith and Leo Grabowski, were persuaded to accept good-faith bonds instead of cash for their acreage (Grabowski became enthused about the project to the point where he later served a club greens keeper.) Two licensed engineers, Robert Balcerzak and Carl Tuohey, peformed course and early clubhouse design.
All over Medina and its environs, friends kept handing over that precious $200 “dues donation” and Medina Golf Association inched forward. Even so, by 1959 only a meager $10,000 sat in the bak and builders of golf courses surely would scoff at any such beginning. Here is where civic loyalty comes in. A small spin-off local company of Frank J. Balcerzak General Contracting and its principal officers were Mr. Balcerzak and his comptroller daughter, Barbara.
The B&B company acted on faith and started turning earth. When many thousands of stones turned up under the machines, club members formed “picking parties,” moving up the fairways night after nights to prepare them for grass seed. No doubt about it, a golf course opening was not far away and anxious citizens were taken on evening tours of the site.
The First PGA Professional
EVERY GREAT GOLF COURSE BEGINS WITH A PGA PROFESSIONAL
As essential for a respectable golf club is a PGA professional, so after a search the offer went to a retiree in Florida, an amiable Irishman named Eddie McElligott. Gentlemanly in nature, he was the perfect fit for a starter and was beloved and long-remembered. As he arrived on the local scene with his wife, Lil (champion pie baker), the greens at the golf course were still in construction. Everything was now at fever pitch.
WHY WE REALLY CALL IT SHELRIDGE.
Now it is well to point out how “Shelridge” got its official name. Along in the late Fifties at a board meeting the question of a name arose. Completely out of the blue, a hand went up and a now unknown voice entered the discussion: “We’re half in Shelby and half in Ridgeway, why not call it Shelridge?” (In fact, the town line runs down the exact center of the course.)
The Clubhouse and the Back 9
SHELRIDGE FINALLY HAS AN OFFICAL CLUBHOUSE...AND AN 18 HOLE CHAMPIONSHIP GOLF COURSE
Over the years the devotion of locals kept things afloat with the help of bank notes, bond sales and mortgages. Leaders kept their faith. The golf course gradually matured and $25,000 was spent on a large dairy barn to make it into the permanent clubhouse. In the 1960s Bob Gelder (a 4-time president) joined with attorney and former president Duane Johnson to propose the expansion to 18 holes. They found members squeamish as of that date, but 20 years later the goal was achieved when Pro George Moore found, a willing contractor in the south. For $50,000 he carved out the “black nine” which has become pretty, playable, popular and sometimes punishing.
SHELRIDGE AFTER ALMOST 55 YEARS
Competition is keen at Shelridge where six leagues exist and where scores of various tournaments are run over nearly seven months. The annual championship battle yields a coveted title, held by such talented players as Dave Boice, retired teacher, school golf coach, son of a PGA pro (6 championship trophies) and Ray Neuman, well-liked mail carrier, tall and lean (7 years) Plus Marcia Jones, women’s champ for a decade. The Shelridge Women’s Golf Assoc. is “hands-on” busy since those early days when formed by Betty Graham.
Youngsters are not neglected at SCC and there’s a focus on the 8-week Junior Golf Program. Some of the juniors grow to high school age and rock the boat with their skills. In the 1980s young John Francisco won four championship titles and in later years joined one of the national pro golf tours. Tom Hungerford, another high schooler, also won four championship trophies, showing maturity that made him accepted by all ages.
The most recent refinements at SCC are the memorial sites which include outdoor bronze plaques, inscribed stones and trees, gardens, etc., memorializing club members who went to play golf with St. Peter. They can be assured that ---despite financial problems of golf courses these days ---- the club life they cherished in Medina remains strong.