Happy 50th, Michelbook!
What a lovely shade of green you’re wearing today, Michelbook Country Club.
The private facility and sporting institution turns 50 years old today, with a celebratory dinner and music from The Humlie Trio to ring in a new year. And what a way it has come, from the 114-acre dairy and turkey farm owned and operated by Francis Michelbook and his family in land northwest of McMinnville.
“It’s kind of a big deal for a private club in a smaller community to be able to sustain itself,” said Eric Chaufty, the head professional at the course since 2000.
A group of local businessmen approached Francis Michelbook and convinced him to sell them the land for $1,000 an acre for the express purpose of starting the club in 1964. Michelbook agreed on the condition that his name be attached to the facility in perpetuity, and so it has been.
At the age of 85, Michelbook cut the ribbon on a nine-hole golf-course with head professional Vern Perry, and McMinnville resident Earl Plumeau was selected to hit the first ball off the tee. “He fired one far and straight, then struggled the rest of the way to the first green because of the admitted shakes,” the News-Register reported in its May 13, 1964 edition.
The members pitched in to remodel an old dairy barn on the property into a 5,000-square-foot clubhouse, useful for recruiting new members as well as satisfying the needs of existing members. That clubhouse barely saw a decade pass, when a fire spread throughout the building on Nov. 3, 1976. Only the pro shop was left untouched – a sign of perseverance? Whatever its meaning, the club members came together again to raise funds for a new clubhouse, which was opened in May 1975.
Michelbook underwent intensive expansion in 1984, with the addition of nine new golf holes – today’s back nine – and the remodeling of four others. The membership purchased 80 acres of land from the Compton-Rowell company and 17.5 acres from the Stout family to aid in the endeavor.
Out of its adolescence, Michelbook has drawn acclaim for the challenge of its 18 holes. The McMinnville High School and Linfield College golf programs consider it home, with the Wildcat Open college tournament and Class 6A Pacific Conference tournaments as competitive mainstays. Michelbook hosted the 1991 Oregon Amateur; the experience has brought with it other high-level amateur events.
Michelbook has now settled into middle age, with a steady outgrowth of houses around its midsection and ever-thicker rough along its fairways. Make no mistake, though – the old course still has game.