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MNGL should be 'pay to play'

To the Editor:

After attending the Wednesday June 12 meeting at the library concerning the future of public golf in Red Wing, I'm convinced that former "members" of Mississippi National simply want things to return to the way they were — that is, unlimited access and special consideration for themselves at a bargain rate on the backs of "golf tourists" — and that with proper management the facility would again flourish.

Granted, Wendell Pittenger was probably burned out, but he also probably boxed himself in with too low-priced season passes and carts (and a clientele motivated to get its cost per round down as low as possible) and too high a daily rate for out-of-towners' steady repeat business.

I wholeheartedly support a volunteer citizens' board overseeing 36-hole operations and a five-year window to prove itself.

However, every adherent at that meeting needs to ask him/herself if he/she would be nearly so ardent if the courses could only stay open as daily fee operations.

(Witness what both River Falls and Hudson country clubs have done this year.)

If no — if you are looking to simply continue with "affordable" memberships — then you are in direct competition with the country club. As the facilitators said, most play at a golf course comes within a 30-mile radius.

I say: Pay to play each and every time. Keep it going with your own dollars.

Finally, Mrs. Betcher was scoffed at by suggesting golfers fundraise startup costs much as hockey supporters did for the original ice arena. The untold story there was that in late 1980 when the powers-that-be again balked at such a huge outlay for a possible white elephant, a handful of NSP employees offered to put up their own houses as collateral and the arena was finally built.

Earlier, Robb Rutledge reported a $200,000 anonymous gift, if matching funds were found. I find it hard to believe that 200 former members wouldn't donate $1,000 each to Save Mississippi (and a promise to buy a season pass doesn't cut it in my book.)

Richard Bergwall

St. Paul