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NGCOA Names Industry Hills Course of the Year


Industry Hills Golf Club, a course located on the site of a former Los Angeles landfill that once used goats to assist in a $60 million renovation, has been named the 2010 Golf Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association.

The association of golf course owners and operators also named Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, the winner of the Jemsek Award for Golf Course Excellence. Both facilities will be among those recognized at the NGCOA's member appreciation and awards event on February 11, 2010, during the association's Annual Conference in San Diego.

Industry Hills recently completed a comprehensive renovation of its two courses (Ike and Babe) and the adjoining hotel and spa. The $60 million investment makes the public facility east of Los Angeles one of Southern California's finest resort destinations, according to co-owner John Semcken.

"We've renovated every room in the hotel, every restaurant and every dining area. Every inch of fairway has been replaced, and every foot of irrigation has been replaced," said Semcken, a real estate developer who along with partner and co-owner Ed Roski purchased Industry Hills in 2000. As part of the landscaping overhaul, a goat herder was brought in to help clean up underbrush that remained from the site's days as a landfill. Subsequently, ValleyCrest Golf Course Maintenance was hired to ensure consistently superior course conditions.

Course conditions and exceptional service, Semcken said, explain not only Industry Hills' 1,400 members and 90,000-plus annual rounds, but also a multitude of celebrity sightings that rival Riviera and Bel-Air country clubs.

"We wanted Industry Hills to be of the same quality and provide the same type of experience that some of the finest private clubs in Southern California provide," Semcken said. "We think the investment was worth it."

The Jemsek Award is given in honor of the late Joe Jemsek, who owned and operated three courses, including Cog Hill, near Chicago. Firestone celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2009 and continued an unrivaled run of 55 consecutive years of tournament golf. The streak started with the Rubber City Open in 1954 and continues with the current World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational. In between, Firestone has hosted three PGA Championships.

"We love tournament golf, and we continue to change the golf course to keep it up to the standards demanded by today's professionals along with the high expectations of our loyal members," said General Manager Mark Gore.

The history of Firestone dates to August 10, 1929, when Harvey Firestone drove the first ball down the fairway of the South Course, opening a facility designed for the enjoyment of employees of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. In later years, the North and West courses were added, making Firestone the finest 54-hole private facility in the U.S. in the estimation of many.

"We teach all of our staff to have a servant's heart. If you can focus on warm welcomes, magic moments and fond farewells, you don't have to make it any more complicated than that," Gore said, borrowing the mantra of ClubCorp, Firestone's owner since 1981.

The First Tee will receive the NGCOA's Award of Merit, which recognizes significant contributions to golf.

Meriam Leeke, owner of Old Channel Trail in Montague, Mich., and association treasurer from 2000-2009, was named the Don Rossi award winner, which goes to an NGCOA member who has served the association with distinction.

The NGCOA's Champion Award, which recognizes work that improves opportunities for fellow course owners, went to outgoing NGCOA president Charlie Birney, managing director of a family-owned business that owns and operates three Mid-Atlantic area courses; Del Ratcliffe, president of the North Carolina Golf Course Owners Association and of Charlotte-based Ratcliffe Golf Services, who successfully rallied stakeholders to defeat a golf sales tax in his state; and Ted Horton and the California Alliance for Golf, who led a similar fight against taxation in California.

Juday Creek in Granger, Ind., was named the winner of the Player Development award for successfully growing the game. The family-owned course has designed a four-part approach to bringing new and occasional players into golf and turning them onto the game through instruction, leagues and creative special events.

The late Beryl Artz, a longtime executive with ClubCorp, president of the Somerset Golf Group and an NGCOA board member from 2006 to 2007, was named the winner of the Paul Porter award, which is given in honor of the late CEO of Poppy Holding, Inc. and the Northern California Golf Association.

For more information about the NGCOA, visit www.ngcoa.org or call 800/933-4262.