A informal dinning room is is one of many new additions to the club. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.
By Dave Wagner
A year after purchasing the former Colonial Park Country Club, Norman and Dana Kelley are starting to see their million-dollar renovation project take shape.
Norman took early retirement as an operations manager for a chemical storage and distribution service in Houston last year when he and his wife, a Clovis native, bought the course. They moved here and renamed it Chaparral Country Club, taking over operations in May 2003.
Both were dismayed by the deteriorating condition of the course.
“I played golf here, and we’d heard it was for sale,” he said. “It looked to me like there was a lot of potential to make it a really nice course, and I decided it was something I could do.”
Neither he nor his wife, both in their mid-50s, played much golf until they were well past 30, but now they’re committed to the sport.
“We love golf; golf is our passion,” Dana said. “We would come play here, and it was so sad. Our children are grown and gone, so we decided this would be a slower pace of life (than Houston).
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun.”
The Kelleys said they expected the total renovation process to take two to three years.
“We weren’t surprised at the scope of the project,” Dana said. “I am surprised at how long it takes to get things done.”
Work on the clubhouse, which includes installing showers and exercise equipment and updating electrical wiring to meet state standards, should be done in a couple of months. The Kelleys are also refurbishing the club’s swimming pool.
Dee Bailey, whose home borders the 16th tee on the course, said the improvements in the golf course have been beneficial to other property in the area.
“I dropped (membership) for approximately two years, but when Norman and Dana bought it I came back to support it,” Bailey said. “The course is well-manicured. This golf course can actually grow grass when it’s properly taken care of.”
He said the Kelleys “have put a lot of money and energy into it. They’ve worked their tails off.”
Work on the course itself is well underway, but will be accelerated once the clubhouse is finished, Norman said. He plans to add two or three water hazards, and sand traps on most holes.
“I’m hoping to start on the sand traps in the fall,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to do that, but we want to do it right.”
Dana said membership, which had fallen from around 550 in the 1980s to less than 70 when they took over, is currently around 200.
Norman said the course will remain semiprivate: People can either become members or pay the greens fees to play.
Former Clovis High athletic director Randy Adrian said he had been a member for about 10 years, but dropped it about eight years ago before coming back when the Kelleys bought the facility.
“He’s made so many great changes to the course itself, with the water (hazards), and he’s put down a lot of seed,” Adrian said. “There used to be so many bare spots (in the fairways).
“I hope people will appreciate it and support it, even if they don’t golf. I’d like to see people join just as social members.”
Martin Griego, proprietor of Griego Construction which did exterior work on the clubhouse, also enjoys playing and is excited about the renovations.
“It’s just a lot better course,” he said. “You have to be a golfer to appreciate the fairways. Once they put all the hazards in, it’s going to challenge golfers.”
The club can be something which attracts people to Clovis, including businesses, Dana said.
“We think it will be the premier golf facility in eastern New Mexico — between Albuquerque, and Amarillo and Lubbock,” she said. “We’re hoping that it feeds the town. (Potential) companies want and need a facility for their employees to have recreation and dining.
“The Chamber of Commerce told us that Clovis has lost several industries to west Texas because it had no recreational facility. Now, we can compete.”