Restoration of Joe Bartholomew Golf Course Finally On Par
October 4, 2010
By Kelly Parker, Contributing Writer-Lousiana Weekly
This article was originally published in the October 4, 2010 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.
The current rebuilding efforts don't end with the homes in the celebrated neighborhood of Pontchartrain Park. With the help of local construction and architectural firms and New Orleans native and PGA Tour Professional Kelly Gibson, the historic Joseph M. Bartholomew Municipal Golf Course in Pontchartrain Park is undergoing a major makeover as well.
Some of the local players involved in the restoration project include subcontractors Malone Electrical and L.O. Ausama Enterprises (a Trucking/Site Work & Demolition Company) just to name a few. It was not just another job for Maury Baker of L.O. Ausama; he grew up on Press Drive, in the historic neighborhood.
"It was one of the projects we did target, mainly because of growing up in the neighborhood -it was near and dear to our hearts," Baker said. "It's been very exciting to be out there and to be a part of this restoration process."
"I enjoyed an extensive playing career on the PGA Tour, but after Hurricane Katrina I was drawn to the need to rebuild the city's golf infrastructure," Gibson, who serves as design consultant, told the Louisiana Weekly. "(Hurricane) Katrina wiped out eight different golf courses in the area, and I felt the opportunity was there to be involved in bringing this great sport back to the City of New Orleans."
According to Gibson, the design process began in 2008, and broke ground on July 7 of last year. The initial plan to reopen the course was scheduled the weekend after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Additions will include nine new lakes, increased drainage capacity, a complete restoration of tee boxes and greens, added aesthetic components, a new pump house and a replacement of the old irrigation system," Gibson added.
Also part of the restoration team is Angela O'Byrne, owner of Perez APC, a local architectural and engineering firm, who was granted the contract by City of New Orleans to rebuild Joseph Bartholomew Golf Course along with other public/city owned golf facility Brechtel Park, located in Algiers.
"Partnering with Perez, we were able to bring experience and resources to this project that will put New Orleans at the forefront of the national golf scene," Gibson said. "I was able to introduce architect Garrett Gill to the project, whom I had recently worked with renovating Tchefuncta Country Club Golf Course. Garrett is the ideal architect for this project, and brings with him wide municipality experience as well as impressive credentials; he had recently completed a project for Mayor Bloomberg in New York City at Dyker Beach."
The Mayor's office provided the following statement in regard to the Bartholomew Renovation project:
"We are pleased with the progress at Bartholomew Golf Course. As the turf grows in and as facility renovations are completed, we will make a determination about course opening dates. The clubhouse and maintenance facilities are part of our 100 committed projects list. It will be a true joy to have a first-class, public golf facility for all of our residents to enjoy. This project will be a critical part of the rebirth of Pontchartrain Park and we are proud to be a part of it."
Once opened, the course will include the First Tee Program; initiated by the City of New Orleans, to provide affordable and accessible educational programs for the city's aspiring young golfers.
"On the north side of the driving range there will be a brand new three-green complex and 18,000 square foot practice tee that will be ideally suited for use by members of The First Tee of Greater New Orleans. "Gibson told The Louisiana Weekly. "The First Tee program's mission is to impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf. Also, with this new facility, the timing is right to incorporate golf programs from the many nearby high schools and universities."
Bartholomew, who became an iconic figure in the community in the 1950s, was the first African American to design and build a public golf facility. He trained under noted architect Seth Rayner in the 1920s and 30s in the Northeast, before returning to his hometown of New Orleans where he built the course at Metairie Country Club and City Park #1 & #2. On April 29, 1956, the Pontchartrain Park facility was "unofficially" open, becoming the only the course in the city available to African Americans. The official dedication was on May 5, 1956, in a ceremony headed by then Mayor Chep Morrison.
Bartholomew also built courses throughout southeast Louisiana and one in Mississippi. Sadly, at the time, he was not allowed to play a single round on any of the courses that he built, because of the color of his skin. He was the first African American inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association Director of Development Gretchen Bradford believes that the return of the Bartholomew Golf Course is the missing piece of the recovery plan for her community. "My family has been residents of Pontchartrain Park since 1958. The return of this golf course means so much to this community; it will be the true sign that Pontchartrain Park is back, she said."
"The more I have been involved with this project, the more I appreciate the mastery Bartholomew had of his craft. Especially considering the time period in which he lived - golf was not the sport it is today."
Kelly Gibson added, "After all is said and done, this is going to be an unbelievable course-something we can all be proud of."
Hopefully, the reopening of the course will cap off a year of revitalization and celebration in the historic neighborhood. Next month, Pontchartrain Park will hold its 55th anniversary celebration.
"It's almost there," Baker stated. "By the end October, the course will be turned over to the city. Who knows, by the end of the year, you may hear people out there yelling "Fore!"
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