- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - When the Humphrey family opened Chippendale Golf Course in 1970, it was the envy of the area.

The original nine-hole course was soon accompanied by a second nine later that same year, and after a reconstruction of the course to add what became known as the Championship 18 in 1987, that original portion of the course became what was known as the Vintage 9.

As time went on, however, the popularity of the Championship 18 soared and interest in playing the original Vintage 9 dwindled. Course pro Jim Humphrey, the son of owner Bill Humphrey, began to notice a major decline in interest in the original nine around 2009.

The Humphrey family found itself torn. Holding onto the original portion of the golf course, where it all started, began to take a toll on the bottom line of the business. It was time for a change.

So, they quietly started gauging interest from investors, looking for someone to purchase the land in hopes of giving it a new lease on life.

Enter Chris Fry. Fry and fiancée Shiela Rossmann purchased the 43-acre plot from the Humphrey family in January. The last round of golf that will likely ever be played on the old Vintage 9 wrapped up in late November.

“We just weren’t getting enough play to rationalize keeping it open,” Jim Humphrey told the Kokomo Tribune (https://bit.ly/1vR7bJo ). “That was the big key. If we were getting enough play to warrant having it open, we would’ve kept it open. It just wasn’t there. I’m still sad. It’s always been a family thing, and you cut a third of your arm off. It was a business decision we had to make to make play work here at the golf course.”

Fry wasn’t the only suitor, but Humphrey knew he had a vested interest in preserving the property. Fry lives in the subdivision just to the north of Chippendale, with his backyard and patio adjacent to the Vintage 9 land and driving range.

Fry and the Humphreys had one thing in common that solidified the deal. They both wanted to continue to see the Vintage 9 land look like a golf course or park. They didn’t want to see apartments or another housing addition pop up right next to the remaining 18 holes and clubhouse that are Chippendale Golf Course.

“There’s nothing wrong with apartments or housing developments, but with this particular piece of land that’s already groomed and has trees of every kind, you just didn’t want to see asphalt and buildings go up here,” Fry said. “At the same time, you didn’t want to see someone come in and rip the trees out and gain 43 acres of farm ground. These are all the original trees planted by Doc (Bill) Humphries.”

Work is already underway to make the Vintage 9 ground look like the nature preserve Fry envisioned in his mind when he and his family purchased the ground.

The greens have been tilled under and turned into gardens. On the old No. 3 green, there’s zucchini, strawberry, tomato and pepper plants. Seedless black raspberries are sprawling out across what used to be the No. 8 green. And Fry’s daughters helped him plant 50 blueberry plants on the old No. 7 green as a Father’s Day present.

The decision to turn the greens into gardens was a no-brainer for Fry.

“It’s because of the old sprinkler system,” he said. “Chippendale shut off the old sprinkler system, but the plumbing and sprinkler heads are still there. We hope to drill a well out here and have the sprinkler system back up and working by 2015.”

There are plans for the tee boxes and old cart paths as well.

Red and white grapes have been planted around the old No. 6 tee box, with decorative railing featured around the border in hopes of turning it into a picnic-type area. The old marble hole markers serve as steps up to the area. Fry also hopes to construct a gazebo in a centrally-located area on the grounds, and is receptive to the idea of hosting events such as weddings and family reunions.

For the cart paths, Fry hopes to connect the old ways with new ones so visitors may use them as biking and walking paths. He envisions the grounds being a place where schools and retirement homes can bring their students and residents for educational and recreational purposes. The mature landscape makes for a great mix of nature, sunshine and shade. Park benches donated by Chippendale dot the current layout.

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com


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