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History, Tradition Make Springville Country Club ‘Friendliest’ in WNY

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History, Tradition Make Springville Country Club ‘Friendliest’ in WNY

By Colleen Mahoney

In its current location, Springville Country Club is a haven for golf players, boasting 18 holes on 112 acres overlooking Zoar Valley and the Cattaraugus Creek. But before they set up holes and hazards, the land was known as Cascade Park.

Having gotten its name from the waterfall — or cascade — into the creek, the park was a hot spot for visitors from Buffalo, who took the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway to Springville. Cascade Park included two picnic pavilions, tennis courts, a dance hall and views of the creek banks. In the early 1900s, it became a destination for visitors, with special trains of 10 coaches making the trip daily.

“People enjoyed spending the day at the park … the train would drop them off and they’d be there all day,” Golf Professional Dave Thomas said. “They used to wander down to the creek … they took Lover’s Lane, a path in the woods.”

Cascade Park was operated by the railroad company until Glenn “Pop” Warner and Dr. Ralph Waite designed a nine-hole golf course and opened the Springville Country Club on Feb. 29, 1922. Warner was named the first president of the club, which had sand greens until Waite donated $1,500 to convert it to bentgrass in 1929.

“I think the history of the course transcends to golfers and nongolfers … it’s inspiring” said Danielle Rola, office manager at the Springville Country Club.

She noted that the longevity of some of its earliest employees and members adds to the uniqueness of the club.

Thomas took over as golf pro in 1990 for Ange Alberico, who had held the position since 1959. Alberico, who also served as club manager and is now in his 90s, is still at the club almost daily as a golfer. He’s a “great guy,” Thomas said, and he shoots in the 70s for 18 holes.

Roger Bugenhagen was hired as the greens superintendent in 1968, a position he held until passing the reins to his son, Mike, in 2012.

“Roger built seven complete new holes, in-house, to make the course better,” Thomas said. “Usually you have to have an outside source do that … but we had the talent to do it in house.”

Bugenhagen had a “huge influence” on the Springville Country Club, Thomas said. After George Schichtel donated 2,000 trees, Bugenhagen planted them all, from Park Road north to the cornfield.

Naming Mike Bugenhagen as his father’s successor allowed for a continuation in the operation of the course. Not only did Mike Bugenhagen have his father’s legacy, he had been an employee of the club for 28 years before being named greens superintendent.

“That continuity is very important … and it has been very important,” Thomas said. “Even just with the irrigation system … which probably has four to five miles of pipe … and 10 miles of wires … you have to know where those are.”

The continuity of the employees also gives members trust in the Springville Country Club.

“Our members trust what we know and what we do,” he said. “We’re very much appreciated by our members … and that’s rare.”

The appreciation goes both ways when with the club recently celebrated its quarter century members. Members who have been with the club for at least 25 years were honored and asked to share their memories of the club.

“It was so inspiring for me … to hear their stories and their memories,” Rola said. “They have their own fabric of the club … that history is pretty interesting.”

Old photographs and the history of the club were on display for members to view, including a photo of the 2006 fire that destroyed the pro shop.

“That was tough … it was May 8, so it was right at the beginning of our season,” Thomas said. “We opened the new one in 2007, on time and under budget.”

There have also been new clubhouses built, most recently in 2002, to keep up with changing times. While no big changes are on the horizon, Thomas said the Springville Country Club is always looking ahead to the future, to what they plan to do, or aspire to accomplish.

“We’re known as Western New York’s friendliest country club,” Thomas said. “There is no pretentiousness here … it’s member owned and member driven.”

For more information on the Springville Country Club, including how to become a member, visit www.SpringvilleCC.com, or call 716-592-4334.

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