Ellsworth Country Club goes back over 45 years
After Fremont Maynard died in 1961, Jack Oltman was convinced he had the perfect idea on what to do with the Maynards' 90 acres of farmland on the north end of Ellsworth.
Oltman, a lawyer who was appointed to be in charge of the estate, was a friend of the family and also an enthusiast of a growing outdoor sport.
"He thought it'd be a good place for a golf course," said his brother, Ralph. That wasn't a surprise, considering both Oltmans played a lot of the sport at the Red Wing golf club and River Falls golf course.
Oltman then got the wheels in motion. He pitched the idea of a golf course to local businessmen in the community and such individuals as James Hines, Elmer Opsal, Mel Oftedahl, Gerald Peterson and K.L. Swanson signed on to purchase the land. Furthermore, 26 additional Ellsworth men signed on to guarantee the original Farmers Home Administration (FHA) loan of $90,000.
And with Fremont's widow, Clara, on board because her only request, Ralph remembered, was they keep the farm house where they lived intact, the process of beginning the Ellsworth Country Club got underway. (Clara died in 1973 at age 104. The farm home eventually burned down.)
Kenall Brothers of Ellsworth were hired to do the development and Gene Pelowski, who used to work for Red Wing's golf club, was tabbed to be the golf professional/manager of the course. Only nine holes were designed due to the acreage. Ralph said there's been discussion over the years of buying more land to expand, but that never came to fruition.
While Pelowski also had a hand in designing the course, the locals wanted to throw their two cents into the matter. Ralph recalled there was talk at one time of putting an island green on Isabelle Creek (which runs mainly along the fifth hole), but that talk quickly subsided.
Ralph remembered that, besides the golf course, Pelowski was interested in wild game and noticed there were these two tame ducks which grew quickly and liked the creek. One day during a rainstorm, it was noticed the ducks were missing and found at the bottom of a drainage pipe. They were both eventually rescued, thanks to using a lasso on their necks.
Ralph's wife Eleanor explained the country club came about at a perfect time in Ellsworth's history because, after World War II, the village became much more of a bedroom community, as people commuted to River Falls or Red Wing.
"People had time for recreation back in the 1960s to start something like this," she said.
The two also said, as the golf course was being built, the clubhouse came attached to the bar, which was rare for Ellsworth back in the '60s.
"That had its own social aspects," Eleanor said.
The golf course wasn't exclusively for men. Eleanor said every Thursday for years, it's always been Ladies' Day at the course.