New golf course superintendent looking for better weather

Randy Pankonen is one of these. Pankonen is the new superintendent of the Little Falls Golf Course, having started the position April 14. “Revenue is down right now because of our late start and the wet weather. But, things have picked up the last couple of weeks,” he said last week while taking a break from his many tasks.

Pankonen is originally from Pipestone. After attending St. Cloud State for a couple of years, he transferred to Anoka/Hennepin Technical College where he earned a degree in maintenance and management of golf courses. Since graduating from the college, and before coming to Little Falls, he has served as the superintendent of the golf courses in Pipestone and in Graettinger, IA.

“It’s a nice area,” said the superintendent of his new home. “The people are friendly—and helpful. As for the course, it’s very challenging. The oak trees come into play a lot.”

Coming before the city council Monday evening, Pankonen, along with members of the Golf Advisory Board, presented an update of the course’s policies. The few changes made include the statement that golfers who damage private property, such as broken windows or windshields, are responsible for the damage. And, those members who are between 18 years and 24, and who are or will be full-time students, may have full playing privileges on open golf days.

Also presented to the council was the approved five-year capital improvement plan for the course. Included for this year is new siding for the clubhouse. Also, added Pankonen, it is hoped that tile can be put in place around hole 17 which has been especially wet.

Before leaving the council, Pankonen gave the council members some “food for thought” by presenting an irrigation system plan for the course. “The newer courses all have automatic sprinkling systems,” he explained. “We’re lagging behind in that we have, instead, a semi-automatic run sprinkling system. It takes eight to 10 man-hours a day to go out and change the sprinklers. And, we’re bothering the golfers at times. Those with automatic irrigation do it at night, with little man-power needed, and without bothering golfers. It’s not in our five-year plan, but we really need to look at it.”

Most of the council members, including Mayor Ron Hinnenkamp, appeared to agree with him.

The cost for such a system, related Pankonen, would be $200,000. It could be done in two phases, he added, with the front nine holes done one year, and the back nine holes done another year. Water for the system would be taken from the Mississippi River.

Coming to Little Falls with Pankonen was his wife, Lori. She has accepted a job as the manager at Champs.

While he enjoys the game now, Pankonen wasn’t always a golfer. “I’d always liked sports but, I didn’t get into golf until my early twenties,” he said. “Golf is one sport you can carry on all through your life. And, it offers entertainment as well as a nice social outing. It’s not that expensive either, if you average it out.”

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