MARENGO – A family’s desire to turn a few plats of farmland and a cow barn into a playing field for area golfers has been a recreational staple in Marengo for 50 years.
In 1963, Harry Witek and his family decided that they would make their living in Marengo after moving away from the bustle of Chicago. Harry, along with his two sons Bob and Jerry and business partners Hillard Leward and Al Bieze, crafted designs and made investments to build a nine-hole golf course in the area of Route 20 and Harmony Hill Road.
They called it the Marengo Ridge Golf Club, complete with a transformed cow barn that served as the clubhouse. The renovated space became the social hub for the golf course, drawing in the broader Marengo community for its fish fries, prime rib and Sunday breakfasts.
“It became a place for people to get together,” said Bob Witek, son of Harry Witek and owner of the Marengo Ridge. “It’s not strictly a business. We know a lot of people here. It’s our home.”
As business grew, the course expanded. The Witeks bought farmland north of the course and added nine more holes and a roomier clubhouse by the early 1990s. Ownership had changed hands in that time, but the business stayed in the family after Bob Witek became sole owner in 1980.
Now 50 years after the Witeks broke ground on their golf course, the family has only gratitude for a community that helped them maintain their living in Marengo.
“We enjoy keeping care of people and that’s the driving force for us,” Bob Witek said. “We’ve seen people grow here. We’ve seen people play as children and now as adults and, in some cases, we’ve seen their children and grandchildren play here.”
The semi-private club sports 100 members and has daily admission for non-members.
The course has garnered national attention, receiving accolades from Golf Digest magazine as a top place to play golf. The course hosted a qualifying competition for the 1999 U.S. Open and has been home for numerous local junior and amateur leagues.
Bob Witek has been busy during Marengo Ridge’s milestone year, as he has tried to track down the remaining original members of the course to honor them for 50 years of dedication to the game of golf.
Bob Witek and his wife, Janet, are also in their second year of hosting the Witek Cup Challenge, which has area golfers compete for points through season-long tournaments to win cash prizes and claim the Harry J. Witek trophy.
With 50 years of service to the community, the Witek family hopes to keep its household name in Marengo.
“We have made many, many good friends here,” Bob Witek said. “We hope we can stay around for another 50 years.”
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