A small crowd gathered inside the Bainbridge Country Club Thursday afternoon to honor a historic milestone, as the Decatur County Historical Society officially recognized the club’s original 9 holes as a historic site.
“This would normally have been done at our November dinner get-together, but due to COVID we haven’t had a dinner get-together since November 2019,” said Historical Society President Roslyn Palmer.
“It’s just as special, and definitely more special, because we’re here. 2021 was the 100th anniversary of the first 9 holes at Bainbridge Country Club,” Palmer explained. “We have never made a golf course to be historic recognition. It’s all so special, so new, and I don’t think it matters at all that we do it in early 2022.”
Co-Chair Mike Harrell then addressed the attendees, first acknowledging the members of the Board of Directors, including Co-Chair Matt Palmer, as well as various other club staff and directors. He then proceeded to talk about the changes and struggles the club has gone through in recent years.
According to Harrell, in 2017 the club had 113 members.
“We weren’t economically viable,” he said. “We actually met in the ballroom here in May, to vote to close the country club.
One of the attendees at the meeting was Mark Pirrung.
Harrell explained, “A lot of people don’t know, but front 9… is on Pirrung property, under a $1 a year lease, it was a 100 year lease, which originated in 1967 or ’68 . One of the terms of the lease was that if that entity ever changed, it would void the lease.
Harrell said Pirrung offered to still honor the lease, even if changes were made. After that, the club reorganized into Bainbridge Country Club, LLC. These changes have greatly helped the club financially and membership has dropped from 113 members to just under 200 members.
After a brief history, various artifacts from the club’s heyday were also handed out, including an old photo of former members, cherry wood golf clubs and a jar of golf tees that Harrell’s father had collected.
“This jar of tees was on my dad’s dresser in their master bedroom, and when he came home he played every Saturday and Sunday at this club for 40 years… my dad was sticking the tees he used when he was golfing that day in this jar,” Harrell said. “That’s why I’m here, because I remember sitting on these steps after swimming in the pool all day, and looking down that 18th fairway, looking for a sky blue Easy-Go golf cart that had my dad in it. As soon as they hit their second shot, on that pole, I’d run over there and jump in the cart with him, and he’d let me take him back to the golf club.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “Just the tradition and history of this place.”
The tradition and history will live on, as the historical plaque will be displayed on the course, potentially where golfers can view it from the driving range, near where the original photograph of former members was taken, although Harrell n haven’t decided on an exact location yet.