Willow Creek Golf Course in south Rochester closed this week and all of the staff was let go as the owner prepares to hand the property over to Sterling State Bank.
The clubhouse and facilities for the 18-hole course and the nine-hole executive course called Little Willow at 1700 48th St. SW. were locked up on Tuesday for the transition, according to owner Wendell Pittenger.
“After four years of terrible weather, we just couldn’t sustain it any longer,” said the 84-year-old Pittenger, who built the course in 1973. “We really want to thank our employees for all their dedication and thank all of our customers. ... The party’s over. It’s really sad for me and sad for a lot of people.”
He said four years of bad weather hurt the golf course until it “wasn’t sustainable any more.”
This closure follows months of speculation in the community about the future of Willow Creek.
There has been concern by residents near Willow Creek that the golf course might be re-developed for housing as Meadow Lakes Golf Course, six miles to the north, was when it closed in 2012.
Pittenger says that isn’t possible.
“There’s too much flood plain to develop it for housing,” he said.
While he is done with Willow Creek, Pittenger said he believes it will eventually reopen as a golf course.
“Hopefully, next year it will come out with new ownership, new ideas and a fresh approach,” said Pittenger. “And Willow Creek will be better than ever.”
People close to the situation say there is a local group interested in purchasing Willow Creek with the intention to re-open it as a golf course. Many residents with houses around Willow Creek support that idea.
Wendell Pittenger also managed the Mississippi National Golf Links in Red Wing for years until he closed it in 2013. The City of Red Wing later took it over as a municipal course.