John Potthoff was looking for a way to make a living when the zinc works were closing in the early ‘60s at Illinois Zinc in LaSalle and Peru. He found it as close as his very own backyard.
Having Interstate 80 being developed right outside their farmhouse and heavy equipment in their backyard led to frequent conversations with Charles Ind, the owner of a concrete company out of Rockford. Looking over their acreage, Ind told Potthoff his farm’s hilly terrain, the mature trees and vegetation would make for a perfect setting for a golf course.
Those conversations led to a vision … Spring Creek Golf Course, developed by Potthoff with assistance from his brothers, Leo, Clem and Ted, and his brother-in-law, Harold Dean of Princeton.
Construction of the golf course took about three and one-half to four years, said Chris Potthoff, John’s son and current co-owner, opening on June 20, 1964. The original nine holes were on the west side of the course, which is now Holes 10-18.
Two years later, the second nine holes on the east side of the course, now Holes 1-9, opened leaving the aged trees, hillsides and wildflowers, and the course’s namesake, Spring Creek which elegantly enters the course underneath the I-80 bridge, virtually untouched.
Chris Potthoff, who oversees daily course operations with his brother, Jack, was 16 when the course opened in 1964. He said it’s been a real “lifetime experience” keeping the family business running all these years. He said his father’s work ethics were extraordinaire.
“Growing up with your father ... following his dream, having Dad’s dream develop into your dream and seeing your dream, develop into your siblings’, children’s, nephew’s and grandchildren’s dream is priceless,” he said.
“Through hard work and perseverance we have been sincerely blessed with a fantastic family and loyal customers.”
Kathy Potthoff, Chris’ wife, said it’s been “a good 50 years.”
One golfer who has played for 50 years and running at Spring Creek is Vern Golden of Hollowayville. Many golfers, have come and gone, but Golden remains one constant at Spring Creek.
“He’s 80 years old, and nothing stops him,” said his wife, June.
“I’ve taught my kids how to golf there. I used to drop them off, my four boys, on my way to work and pick them up at night,” said Golden, who carded an 89 on Father’s Day with two of his sons.
Golden remembers the old No. 8 hole (now No. 17) was virtually still a cornfield when it opened, and the original west course was completely bare with no trees. He said Spring Creek planted poplar trees because they were fast growing.
On occasion, one can see the three generations of Potthoffs with Chris and his son and grandsons having a round of golf together, which Kathy, calls “a nice site, a good feeling.” But rest assured, one does understand that all of their work is done before play.
That’s how they’ve been doing it at Spring Creek for 50 years.
• I’m hearing good reports on 12-year-old Ashton Landrus of Princeton, who has been hospitalized for nearly a month. He can continue to use our prayers to get him back on his feet and doing what 12-year-old boys are supposed to do. God Bless, Ashton.
Kevin Hieronymus is the BCR Sports Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.