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Mississippi National Golf Links member Anthony Boser starts golfing Friday morning, April 11, 2014, the first day the course was open to the general public. (Republican Eagle photo by Danielle Killey)
Mississippi National Golf Links member Anthony Boser starts golfing Friday morning, April 11, 2014, the first day the course was open to the general public. (Republican Eagle photo by Danielle Killey)

Time to tee off at Mississippi National Golf Links

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sports Ellsworth, 54011

Ellsworth Wisconsin 126 S. Chestnut St. 54011

RED WING, Minn. -- Rainy, cool weather gave way to sunshine and warmth just in time for the first public golfers this year to tee off Friday morning at Mississippi National Golf Links.

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The premier golf course in southeast Minnesota course was shuttered last year — except the driving range — as the city of Red Wing debated its future. But the Lowlands holes reopened Friday for public golf and the Highlands holes should be playable within a week or so, head golf professional Nathan Gale said.

The opening came after months of work to get the course up and running.

“It was basically like starting a new business,” said Gale, a Hastings native who studied professional golf management at Ferris State University. “The building was empty.”

The operation needed everything from new carts and equipment to computers and phones, Gale said. He started work in February.

Mississippi National superintendent Randy Juliar has been working on the 36-hole course and determined the Lowlands were ready for golf, Gale said.

Other work is ongoing, including getting the restaurant up to code and prepared to serve food. That probably will take a while longer, Gale said. Local restaurants will be able to offer catering there, he added.

Still, the course is ready for the public, Gale said.

“We’ve got the essentials,” he said. “We’ll fine-tune as we go.”

There is a Red Wing resident rate for golf and specials in April, Gale said, and Mississippi National offers reciprocity. Mississippi National will offer lessons as well, and its four leagues will return.

The new website, www.golfredwing.com, includes an option for online booking.

The high school golf teams also will return to Mississippi National,  the Red Wing girls play there and the boys will use the driving range, Gale said.

‘Excited to be back’

Red Wing Municipal Golf Corp. President Robb Rutledge said the process to get the course reopened went fairly smoothly.

“Since we signed the agreement with the city, things have been going well,” Rutledge said. “We’re just excited to be back.”

Rutledge said the municipal golf group raised more than the required $400,000, including donations from many Red Wing residents. There also have been volunteers helping to get the course ready.

“I think the message is people want the golf course open,” Rutledge said.

The City Council decided to keep the course closed last year as it debated what to do with Mississippi National and while it was involved in a lawsuit with former course operator Wendell Pittenger, who closed MNGL in 2012. The suit was settled last fall.

Local nonprofit Red Wing Municipal Golf Corp. was the only respondent to the city’s request for proposals to run the course. The entities worked to ultimately hash out a five-year lease agreement that includes financial contributions from the city that decrease each year.

Red Wing Municipal Golf Corp. signed an agreement with the city in December to manage  Mississippi National and then worked to raise money and get the site ready for a spring opening.

While golfers can now play at the course, Rutledge said there will be a grand opening event later this spring. But he encouraged the public to come out to Mississippi National now that it’s open.

“We invite everyone, not just golfers, to stop by,” he said. “It’s your course.”

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