Sod story for golfers: Days numbered for Tinley Park course
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org July 18, 2012 4:56PM
Graystone Golf Links in Tinley Park, IL on Wednesday July 18, 2012. The owners have decided this will be the last year for golfing there. It's going to be turned into a sod farm. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:50AM
Walking off the ninth green Wednesday afternoon at Graystone Golf Links in Tinley Park, Jerry O’Sullivan said he’s sad that his golfing days there are numbered.
The owners plan to turn the sporty nine-hole course into a sod farm, with the ultimate goal of one day building a business park on the 48 acres, village officials said.
Sandwiched between Harlem and 80th avenues on 191st Street just south of Interstate 80, the golf course that opened in 1995 has brought countless hours of pleasure to O’Sullivan, 67, and many other golfers. At a senior rate of $20 for a cart and nine holes, it’s a good bargain, he said.
“I love to play here. It’s a nice, wide-open course. I live close by and wish it wasn’t going away,” the Tinley Park man said.
The golf course has been for sale for several years. Tuesday night, the village board had a first reading of a request for a special-use permit for the next three years.
“They want to convert the golf course after this season into an agricultural use, most likely a sod farm,” assistant village manager Mike Mertens said.
After that, “They’re looking to redevelop it into something else besides a golf course,” Mertens said. Light industrial use or a business park is likely, he said.
The current special-use permit expires in October, Mertens said.
In 2009, the course’s founder and designer, James Gray, died at age 62. Gray’s widow, Karen Gray, and his brother, Bill Gray, own the course with other family members, Mertens said.
Karen Gray and Bill Gray were not available for comment Wednesday. She was not at the clubhouse when a reporter visited.
The idea of a sod farm went over like a triple-bogey on a par-3 for golfer Ed Duckworth, 56, of Tinley Park.
“Oh, that’s the first I’ve heard of that. What good is a sod farm? That’s not going to do me any good,” he said as he took his clubs out of his car trunk.
“I come here quite a bit and I enjoy the course. I play here twice a month or so. It’s close to home and is reasonable. Actually, there’s never any kind of backup here, either. Maybe that’s why they’re doing this,” Duckworth said.
Graystone Golf Links “is always in good condition,” he said, adding, “That’s why I keep coming back.”
Another man suggested that the village buy the golf course. Mayor Ed Zabrocki will take a pass.
“We’re not in the recreation business. If the park district is interested in it, fine. I understand golf courses aren’t the money makers they used to be. There’s a certain amount of risk involved. In this day and age, I don’t know of many government agencies willing to take on that kind of risk,” Zabrocki said.
The park district is not interested in buying Graystone, Tinley Park Park District director John Curran said.
“There would have to be a long-term commitment to make it worthwhile,” Curran said. “When Jim Gray built the course, he was given a special-use permit, but the intent was always to have an office complex there.”
Meanwhile, O’Sullivan hopes to sneak in a few rounds before the course is closed. He may return Thursday.
“The seventh hole, it’s almost a professional hole. It’s that hard. On the ninth, you have to have a good drive and a good 3-wood to get there. It’s challenging,” he said.
Mertens said he’s enjoyed playing the course.
“I’ve hit many a golf ball onto Panduit Drive,” he said, referring to the Panduit Corp. headquarters west of Graystone.