River Falls, Wisconsin-based Garrett Gill grew up following in the business established by his late father, David Gill of St. Charles, Illinois. Garrett and David worked together for many years and completed numerous golf facilities, including Meadowbrook Links in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Hulman Links in Terre Haute, Indiana. Garrett, with partner George Williams, also designed, in California, Micke Grove Golf Links, in Stockton and David L. Baker Memorial Golf Links, in Orange County. His Minnesota courses include Inner Wood Golf Course in Inner Grove Heights; Majestic Oaks South in Ham Lake; Willingers Golf Club in Northfield; The Legends Golf Club and the Meadows at Mystic Lake Club, both in Prior Lake; Cedar Creek Golf Club in Albertville; Eagle Ridge Golf Course in Coleraine; and the new Wedgewood Cove Golf Club in Albert Lea.
I returned from Texas A&M in 1977 to work with my father, a prominent Chicago area-based golf course architect. He was given the commission to redesign portions of the St. Charles Country Club in our hometown. The acclaimed golf architect Tom Bendelow designed the original eighteen-hole course in 1924. The now-famed Arthur Anderson management company bought the clubhouse and portions of the front and back nines along the east banks of the Fox River south of town to build a training site. The club then purchased additional land up on the bluffs to replace the lost holes and to build a new clubhouse, which it desperately needed.
My father sited the clubhouse and parking lots and designed great new holes to complete the eighteen-hole layout. The golf course contractor selected to construct the project was the Wadsworth Company, based in Plainfield, Illinois. Wadsworth is a very reputable and highly-sought after firm with whom my father had worked many times. The Wadsworth foreman for the project was Bob Steele.
Naturally, on many occasions, Steele and my father walked the course during construction. On the eventful day, I was participating in one of these walkthroughs. My father was pointing out several items he wanted Steele to correct or modify. Several times, as my Dad would point out issues out, Steele, having just come off a Jack Nicklaus design job before coming to St. Charles, said, “Well Mr. Nicklaus does it this way.” Another time he said, “When I was working on the Nicklaus course, we did it this way.”
My Dad stopped dead in his tracks, turned and faced Steele square on and used a voice I had heard a few times before during my childhood. It was the voice that he’d used on my young brothers and me when we misbehaved.
“Goddamn it,” he bellowed, “I am not Jack Nicklaus!”
Steele didn’t bring up the Golden Bear’s name again.