Keller Golf Club in St. Paul is closing for renovation.
Some of the greatest golfers in the world have played Keller Golf Club, the venerable Ramsey County course that has hosted two PGA Championships and longstanding events on both the PGA and LPGA tours.
The course is not defined by those all-timers, however. Rather, it's the regulars like Joyce Carbone, a Maplewood resident and Keller member for 50 years, who truly show what the course means.
Carbone and others gathered Sunday to play the course -- which opened in 1929 -- before a shutdown that begins Monday and will last into 2014 for a $10 million-plus renovation.
Carbone, 84, received a shot in her knee Wednesday from an understanding doctor just to ensure she would be able to play Sunday. "This is my home," said Carbone, one of 130 playing members of the Keller Women's Club. There are 275 male members.
Sentiments like that were frequent at Keller. There also were concerns about the layoff and how the redone course might feel after several of the holes are altered and the clubhouse is redone. A few women joked about chaining themselves to trees. One had a cart with a handmade "Occupy Keller" sign posted on the front.
Maureen Murphy, president of the women's club, passed out soft packages of tissues to each of the 60 or so women's club members who played on Sunday. She also was on the renovation committee.
"One of the coolest things," Murphy said, "was being able to have a say."
Many members will be heading to Goodrich Golf Course in 2013, and they will be taking their wit with them as well. After one member drilled a tee ball down the middle at No. 1 on Sunday, she declared, "I'm going for 80 today." The reply from a nearby golfer: "Maybe on the front nine."
They'll be back at Keller in 2014, though exactly when remains to be seen. Best-case scenario, club pro Tom Purcell said, is June 1. But it could be months later, depending on the growing season. Purcell, in his 34th year as Keller's pro, promised the course will retain its homey feel.
"You have to know your niche," he said. "We have the history and we have values. We'll still take tee times over the phone. If you call, someone is going to talk to you."
Purcell was giving out a lot of hugs Sunday in between managing a tee sheet that has been crammed full for the past month. "A lot of people have said they needed to come in one more time before it shuts down," Purcell said.
It will be back, of course. But saying goodbye, even temporarily, was tough. Lenny Koneczny paid a visit Sunday. His playing days are over, but he's still a social member at Keller -- where he started caddying in 1932, an amazing 80 years ago.
"Keller has been my life," Koneczny said, getting a little emotional like so many did Sunday. "It's just a beautiful place to be."
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