By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
ED VIETMEIER is new to operating a golf course in Mercer County, but he jumped right in to become a part of the community.
Vietmeier, who took over the operation of Birchwood Golf Course near the Shenango River Lake earlier this year, has already opened the doors — err, make that the tees — to Sharpsville and Reynolds high school golf teams for use in their matches this fall.
“It’s an easy way to build business and help out the community,” said Vietmeier, who already has put in a lot of time at the course formerly owned by the Bartolic family. Sharpsville was a team without a home after Sharon Country Club was bought out by Avalon Golf and Country Club.
Vietmeier admits it has been a lot of work in shaping up Birchwood, but it’s paying dividends already. “Things are pretty good,” he said. “It’s better than we anticipated. We are averaging about 800 rounds a week.
“We are getting a lot of tourists — I met with people at the campgrounds. And word is getting out through our Web site (www.birchwoodgolfcourse.net). We are getting a lot of people from up north.
“The golf course is in pretty good shape; we’ve spent a lot of time watering the tees and greens.”
Vietmeier admits that the hard work at the course has cut into his playing time and he hasn’t been able to compete in the PGA Tri-State Section events like he once did. But he’s also enjoying it.
“My son Noah (9 years old) loves helping out and working on the course,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of great people here.
“The (Sharon American) Legion League is great, a lot of guys came back here to play. It’s up to 70 players now. And we have other leagues inquiring for next year.”
While his main goal was to get the course up and running this year, he said he is thinking of building a new clubhouse and changing the order of some holes.
Vietmeier graduated from Montour High School and grew up playing at Chartiers Country Club, where he worked through college. He played on the golf team at California University of Pennsylvania for four years and was a two-time NCAA All-American. After graduating he worked for several years at various clubs, including Edgewood Country Club, Churchill Valley, Hidden Valley Resort, Duquesne Country Club and Pines Country Club. Edgewood and Pines are in West Virginia.
His latest stint was as a teaching pro at the golf academy at Eighty Four (Pa.) Golf Center.
Vietmeier said he had looked at the Birchwood course and had thought about buying it, when a neighbor and friend, John Butya, bought it for an investment. “He asked me if I wanted to run it,” said Vietmeier. “So we signed a lease agreement. It has been great so far and everything I take in, I put back into the golf course. I’m looking to change the name, probably the Shenango Lake Golf Club.”
ä Birchwood already had some local excitement this summer when groundskeeper Charlie Kuhns was playing with his son and grandson and scored a hole-in-one on the 135-yard No. 6 hole, knocking a 5-iron shot into the cup. That came on a Sunday. The previous day Charlie had scored his first birdie ever. That was quite a weekend.
ä My old softball buddy Hank Caputo continues to excel on the golf courses at the age of 82. Hank recently “shot his age” by recording an 80 at Yankee Run Golf Course. He was playing with Ed Gladysz, Mike Depascale and Joe Tarantino at the time.
The ageless-wonder, Hank played modified fast-pitch softball well into his 70s and still played extremely well. And he still knows how to knock the little ball around on the links.
ä When it comes to shooting great rounds, there aren’t many like that turned in by former Kennedy Catholic High golfer Aaron Pisegna recently. While playing in the 36-hole “Gumby” event with many of the area’s top golfers recently, Pisegna blazed a 33-31—64 from the white tees on one of his rounds.
By Lynn Saternow