Submitted by Ian Lange
On July 31, Lopez Island Golf Club will celebrate its 60th anniversary and the membership thought it was a good time to look back to our beginning. We’ve come a long way and have been part of the developing story of the Lopez Island community.
The year was 1958:
– Dwight D Eisenhower was the 34th US President;
– Sputnik 1 reentered the atmosphere and burned;
– An RCA Whirlpool refrigerator was $118.00;
– Super Glue was invented;
– Seven of the top 10 T.V. shows were Westerns;
– Arnold Palmer won the 22nd Masters Golf Tournament;
– Alaska became a state.
Lopez had between 800 and 1,000 farmers, fishermen, loggers and dairymen. The only asphalt road was Fisherman’s Bay Road so during the rainy season folks had to put chains on to get through the mud everywhere else. The center of all communication was Grandma Pickering’s Phone Company, run out of the living room of her home on Fisherman’s Bay. It’s reported that if an islander wanted the news they would pick up the crank phone between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. and just listen.
Roy Jenson operated the grocery store and the Post Office in the same building that is home to the Fudge Factory today. Earl Butler built the Beer Tavern which became the Galley many years later. Bartering was the basis of island economy and land was traded or sold by the owners themselves.
Lopez was not in a hurry to swing into the rhythm of modernization which seemed to be taking over post World War II United States until the San Juan Islands were discovered as vacation and retirement destinations. New folks showed up and bought property. When golf fever struck the country it bit each of the three islands at about the same time. Lopez was first, thanks to a newcomer from Alaska, B.J. (Mac) McConaghy. Mac was a man of immense vision, energy and generosity. He bought land near Sharks Reef and built a road. He deeded the property for the Lopez Airstrip to island residents, directed its construction and had it ready for use in just one day.
Mac owned the 35 acres adjoining the airstrip. The property was a tangle of tall timber, partially cleared land and areas that were a jungle of second growth; brush and wild roses, plus piles of field stones everywhere. It seemed to Mac that it would be a splendid idea to convert the land into a golf course. It didn’t worry him that most everyone else thought his dream was hopeless.
Mac’s enthusiasm was contagious so a small group of friends worked diligently to figure out a way to create six holes – if a golfer played three times around it would equal the traditional 18 holes of a golf game. Three days later Mac started the laborious task of smoothing and rolling fairways, raking, mowing, and rolling the greens. He used coffee cans for cups and marked them with handmade flags nailed to pine poles.
Excitement grew quickly and Mac formed a corporation to help develop and care for the course – that was July 31, 1958. Members joined and pitched in. It wasn’t long until Mac learned that it took at least nine holes to constitute a standard course and immediately set about the expansion. He worked day and night hacking out the nine holes to make his dream come true. It wasn’t fancy and it certainly wasn’t pretty but folks began to have some real fun playing golf, Lopez style.
Since 1958, sixty years of members, all of whom have served with and without pay, have given countless hours mowing, raking, scraping, digging, watering, planning – to make one of the most beautiful and playable golf courses in the Pacific Northwest from an unlikely tract of land on Lopez.
The mission of the Lopez Island Golf club is to provide an affordable, well maintained, and challenging golf course for members and the general public. Because of our mission, the course and club house are accessible to our island community: local organizations hold fundraising events; the club house is available for social events at low cost; the high school golf team is supported financially by the club with Junior Golf Lessons provided free. Community Golf is held every other Wednesday evening during the entire summer. May 19, 2018, has been set aside as a “free to play” day for all islanders. The course is breathtakingly beautiful and a round of golf is surprisingly affordable. Come visit the Club anytime. We’d love to share the joy of golf.