In 1979, a gallon of gas would cost you $.86, and a brand new Toyota Corolla was priced at $3,698. A lot has changed in 40 years, and so has Eagle's Nest Country Club.
The local recreational landmark began its quest to entertain thousands of outdoor sporting enthusiasts nearly 40 years ago in the warm months of 1979. And in celebration of the local club's 40th anniversary, Eagle's Nest County Club is staging an open house 40th anniversary party on Saturday, June 15.
"This year marks the 40th anniversary of the club, and we thought it be a great idea to just throw like a big party," stated Eagle's Nest Club Pro Tim Hezlep. "We're gonna have all kinds of fun things for the kids, like bounce houses and other activities going on. We're going to do a putting challenge for $2,500. We're trying to get some of the local food places out here serving food and it's really just an open house to let people know about us and to invite people out."
Eagle's Nest, which is most famous for its scenic and challenging 6,195-yard, 18-hole golf course, has made many changes and positive upgrades over the past four decades. But with the help of their new golf pro Tim Hezlep, the local club has a new sense of excitement that they want to share with the rest of the community.
"I think a lot of the club's excitement has been renewed over the last two years," stated longtime club member Larry Ellis. "Go back eight to 10 years ago, when we had the economic downturn, I think that affected a lot of smaller golf courses and we've kind of recovered from that. Tim (Hezlep) has done some really nice things to just bring that energy level way, way up."
Besides it's centerpiece golf course, Eagle's Nest offers one of the few outdoor swimming pools in the county, as well as tennis courts. The club also offers indoor dining and entertainment facilities.
"With the opening of our junior golf clinics and our tennis courts, there's always something to do and we want to be the premier country club in Pulaski County," Hezlep explained. "We're making good strides to do that. We just want everybody to come out and see what's going out here. It's an open house to show what we can do and to just show everything that's going on here."
While we all wish some of 1979's gas and car prices had stayed the same as 40 years ago, Hezlep has set out to bring the historic golf club into the modern era. And now that school is out, Hezlep has been very active with his junior golf clinics.
"When I came here a year and a half ago, I felt that there was a lot of potential here at Eagle's Nest," Hezlep stated. "I tried to bring a modern look as far as the indoor hitting bays, with the launch monitors. Our junior program has steadily grown over the last few years. We had 60 kids show up recently, and junior golf is a big emphasis of mine. I have a 10-year-old son myself and he always wants to sit inside and play video games all the time. He needs to understand that we can come out here, play golf, and get some exercise. It's good for the body and it's really good for the mind."
Hezlep has paid special attention to the maintenance and aesthetics of an already beautiful golf course.
"Last year we started with a new hybrid Bluegrass, that bonds to Bermuda," Hezlep explained. "Bermuda grass, every year, is taking longer and longer to germinate and turn green, so we went with this hybrid Bluegrass to balance with the Bermuda grass. It'll stay green year-round and its stripes up really nice."
But besides the abundance of outdoor activities offered by Eagle's Nest Country Club, the local club's family-like atmosphere may be one of its best features. Longtime Eagle's Nest employee Sharon Foster explained that the club's family atmosphere has kept her there for nearly 30 years.
"I started working here in July of 1988," Foster stated. "Now with that being said, I have left a couple times, but I've always come back because this is 'home'. This is like a family environment for me. Over the years, I have met so many wonderful members and staff."
"Over the last several years, I have got to know so many great families raising their children here, and then I see the next generation bringing their families out here as well," Foster explained. "So, we thrive on that family aspect of having generation after generation to enjoy the club."
Larry Ellis, who retired from Kingsford Charcoal in Burnside several years ago, spends most of his days now on Eagle's Nest's championship golf course. Ellis was quick to explain that the golf course was not his favorite part of Eagle's Nest Country Club, but the family memories they have built at the 'Nest' over the years.
"I've got two grandchildren, who are now grown up, but when they were little they really enjoyed coming to the 'Nest'," Ellis reminisced with an ear-to-ear smile. "I can still remember them playing in the pool. They splashed and had a great time, and they would play golf with me. We would come back to the clubhouse in the evening and have dinner together. It was just a lot of fun."
The Eagle's Nest 40-year Celebration Open House will be on Saturday, June 15, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is open to the general public.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.