The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Opinion

June 28, 2014

Closing Dum Dum would be a shame for community

- — “If they close Dum Dum, Frank Buhl will be rolling over in his grave!”

Those were the words of Jean Hauger when she and Cheryl Cozad came into The Herald Friday morning to discuss saving one of Mercer County’s true gems – Buhl Farm Golf Course, affectionately known as Dum Dum to many of us.

Closing the course has been one of the points of consideration for the Buhl Trustees who manage Buhl Farm Park. It’s no secret that the trust left by Frank and Julia Buhl to care for the wonderful park doesn’t come close to producing enough money to properly maintain the massive property, like it once did.

And the trustees face some tough decisions. But closing Dum Dum is sure to stir a lot of anger, considering it is the only free golf course in the world and has received national and international acclaim over the years.

So Hauger and Cozad have assembled a large group of people willing to try to save the course. They will meet with the trustees on July 23 to see if the park administrators will be OK with the group conducting a fundraising campaign with money specifically collected to maintain the course.

They have already contacted a grant writer to seek any available grants if the trustees give the go-ahead and they feel that through social media they can make this a national campaign.

“Dum Dum is a real asset to the whole community,” said Cozad. “If you look at the list of names of people who visit the course, they are from a lot of different areas. These people spend money in restaurants and hotels.

“And what happens to the First Tee (of Sharon) program there? They have that beautiful building right there at the course.”

The golf course is mostly used by senior citizens and children, but it certainly serves a community need in that respect.

Many of us in the Shenango Valley have fond memories of that layout. When my brother Paul and I were kids, my dad bought a set of golf clubs at a yardsale for $5. They were those wood-shafted clubs. (I can only imagine what they would be worth as collectors’ items today!)

We used to ride our bikes from our house on North Buhl Farm Drive to Dum Dum to play. We had no idea how to play golf the right way, but we sure had a lot of fun.

The park was given to the community by the Buhls in 1915. Frank Buhl died in 1918 and Julia many years later. But they left a sizable trust to maintain the park.

The Buhl Club – now Buhl Community Recreation Center – was the first major donation by the Buhls when built in 1901 and opened in 1903. But unlike the park, the club receives no money from the trust and must exist on its own.

If run properly, the golf course could do the same.

A large fundraising campaign a few years ago resulted in the renovation of the Casino at the park and many other improvements costing several million dollars. However, some people were upset that so much money was spent on the Casino to provide plush administrative offices and the average citizen can’t even get into the building like in the old days when it was a true community center.

It would seem like a no-brainer for the Buhl Trustees to allow a committee to be established to save Dum Dum. But we’ll have to wait and see what their decision will be.

Dum Dum is a big part of Shenango Valley history and it would be a shame to see it close. Nobody wants Frank Buhl rolling over in his grave!

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion Page. He can be reached at lsaternow@sharonherald.com.

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