Golf plays vital role at Elmcrest

Johnson's home course hosts his event

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Turn onto Zack Johnson Drive and look to the left. Tennis courts and a pool come into view before one can see a beautiful clubhouse.

Welcome to Elmcrest Country Club. The club has provided the Cedar Rapids area with leisure activities such as swimming and tennis for many years but golf is the club’s specialty.

Elmcrest’s first golf course opened 81 years ago. It has about 360 current golfing family members that play on the prestigious 18-hole course, according to the club’s golf professional, Larry Gladson.

“The course itself is a very traditional layout,” Gladson said. “It’s always in great condition. It puts a premium on driving the ball straight and having a very good short game around the greens.”

The first plans to build the Elmcrest golf course began in 1929 and in 1931 it was finished as Kenwood Golf Course. It was a nine-hole public course when it first opened.

It became an 18-hole course three years later and in 1947 became a private country club with new ownership calling it by its current name.

Over the years, the country club has added many features, including a pool and tennis courts. However, Elmcrest’s biggest change came at the hands of a fire in 1970 that destroyed the clubhouse.

Soon after the fire, plans to rebuild the clubhouse already were in progress. The result became the gorgeous clubhouse seen today with some changes made to it in a 1987 renovation.

Through the years the amount of golfers to come through Elmcrest has steadily grown along with the prestige of the club.

Many golfers have found success through Elmcrest, and the talent is seen through the local high schools.

“The high school teams have players that are from Elmcrest and many of them have gone on to play college golf at all different levels from Division I to all the way to some of the smaller schools,” Gladson said.

Elmcrest always has been a prestigious golf club, but that prestige increased significantly when a particular 10-year-old kid introduced himself to Gladson one day.

That kid would turn out to be PGA Tour star and 2007 Masters’ champion Zach Johnson. Since Johnson’s success began on tour, Elmcrest has been full of kids wanting to train where Johnson trained, Gladson said.

“There is no question about it, I think the fact that Zach came here plays a big role,” Gladson said.

Johnson gives back in many ways, including today’s event.

“We are very appreciative of Zach and who he is,” Gladson said. “He is from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and he doesn’t let anyone forget that.”

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