The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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November 2, 2012

Family-operated golf course shuts

EBENSBURG — The picturesque Appledale Public Golf Course – a nine-hole course easily visible from the four-lane Route 22 – not  only closed for the season Wednesday, but is shutting after nearly 60 years in operation on what was once farmland.

Sisters Ellen Grove and Sarah “Sally” Wess, who own and operated the course along with Wess’ husband, Theo, decided after long deliberations it was time to end the family-operated golfing operation. Declining memberships and increased operating costs were major factors, they said Friday.

However, the facility’s party room/banquet facility will continue to be in business. Bookings can be made by calling the course number at 472-6080.

The golf course was started in 1966-67 by the sisters’ parents, Don and Charlotte Wolf, who wanted to make sure their physically handicapped son, Lane, would have an occupation after he graduated from college. Lane, despite his physical challenges, worked at the course until his death in 2005.

The news of the course’s closing came as a shock to Mayor Randy Datsko, who said, “It’s been a great asset for the borough. It’s been wonderful to have a course such as that within the borough’s limits.”

Although not a golfer himself, Datsko said, “I knew guys who would walk or ride their bikes there to play when they were kids. And, it’s a close place to drive to in your car.”

The course was designed by L. Robert Kimball, who founded a local architectural/engineering firm and was a friend of the Wolfs. Its name came from the many apple trees that once stood on the farmland. It’s a nine-hole regulation course over nine acres. The old farmhouse became the clubhouse.

Don Wolf, now deceased, had told a school class once, “We began our business with the idea of giving our son, Lane, an interest and purpose in his life. He was a senior in high school when I returned home for lunch one day, and Charlotte suggested we build a golf course so Lane would have an occupation.”

The Wolfs – who were not golfers and who knew nothing about the business – “would take Lane and the dog and drive around to golf courses to look at them” to get ideas, Grove said.

Both father and son became certified chemical operators so they could treat the grass and greens, she said. Years later, Theo Wolf, who had worked at the course after his full-time job in other occupations, also became certified and started full time at the course in 1998.

The Wolf family lived in the stone house that Wolf built in 1946. It was adjacent to the farmland that the parents purchased in 1951. It’s now occupied by the Wess family.

Over the years, the Wolfs hired many local high school and college students to work summers at the golf course. Of course, the sisters said that they, too, worked there and learned to play golf.

They recalled that the Wolfs had purchased the old soda fountain out of the original Tibbott’s Drug Store and would sell sodas, milkshakes and ice cream sundaes. But that fell by the wayside after nearby fast-food operations opened some years ago.

Sarah Wess recalled the days “when people lined up to play – sometimes for an hour. The course was just loaded. People loved to come and enjoyed it, but it just seemed as time went by, there were less and less people.”

After their mother died in 2011, the sisters began thinking it was time to close the course. Their father had died in 2010.

“We try not to feel bad (about closing). But it served the purpose our parents intended. It was a fun operation. They (parents) had influenced a lot of lives over the years,” Grove said.

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