Big Lake golf course has new owner group
April 2, 2021
Golf has survived the pandemic, albeit with a few changes in Carlton County the past year.
After some pandemic unknowns, the Cloquet Country Club, the Moose Lake Golf Club, and Pine Hill Golf Club opened with restrictions and special rules. Surprisingly, these courses had record player turnout and golf rounds posted.
In July of 2020, the Mahtowa 29 Pines Golf Club was sold to Jim and Colleen Myhre and the course name changed to the Rugged Spruce Golf Club. It opened around Labor Day with much anticipation and a lot of golf course maintenance information to absorb. Their opening was very successful, even with pandemic restrictions.
Black Bear golf course remained closed for the entire 2020 season.
The other course in Carlton County - the par three Big Lake Golf Resort - remained closed and for sale by a real estate company for nearly all of 2020. Then three entrepreneurial families from the Big Lake area, with high aspirations for the course, bought the resort in October 2020.
"We talked of bringing the course back to its former glory days," said Matt Decaigny of Decaigny Excavating and one of the new owners.
"We were at a graduation party, socially distanced, and we tossed the idea around. We had been contemplating purchasing the course for a few months. Finally, we all kind of chimed in ... let's do it," Amy Decaigny said. The three families are Matt and Amy Decaigny; Chris and Camille LeBrasseur, operators of Black Diamond Electric; and Bill Jaskari and fiancée Jennifer Serafin, who own the Big Lake Shores and the Lounge on Cary Road.
"We all live within five miles of the course and most of us grew up learning how to golf at Big Lake," Jaskari said. They've played golf together in a couples league at the course in past seasons as well.
Their combined operational and other skills have proven valuable in bringing the course back to life after being dormant for nearly two years.
Jaskari said they completely gutted the clubhouse.
"Matt and Chris, being from the trades, knew local, skilled contractors which we hired and this was important to us," Jaskari said. "We expanded the kitchen area and restrooms, making everything ADA-compliant. The clubhouse had a sound roof and walls but all of the kitchen equipment had been sold in auction.
The Caddy Shack - where golfers will eventually check in, has been updated and refurbished. This is where snacks and beer can be purchased. All of the golf carts have been overhauled and shined up and ready to go, the team reported.
The goal is to eventually have the facility open all year with the overhauled kitchen in the clubhouse optimistically open by Memorial Day weekend. The course will open as soon as weather allows.
Amy, who is also an accountant, said that it has been a tremendous amount of work for all the partners, who also have full-time jobs.
The owners have asked for and received golf course maintenance assistance and recommendations from local course superintendents and owners.
"People have been very helpful from the local courses," Jaskari said. "We purchased just in time to winterize the greens and blow out the watering system lines. Big Lake has always had immaculate greens and we definitely plan to continue that tradition."
They already have golf course maintenance workers lined up for this year and 2022.
Bill Sobeleski, who is on the Cloquet's Wood City Riders snowmobile club board of directors, met with Matt Decaigny at the end of last year. The club's state trail runs through land adjacent and on golf course property. The state requires permission from landowners to sign off on snowmobiles and track groomers to operate on and maintain the trails. Sobeleski said he is excited about the clubhouse opening again in the winter. He saw how much work the new owners have put int.
"They'll succeed," Sobeleski said. "They're a hard working, energetic bunch. It's a perfect stop for our members, whether on a short or long snowmobile ride, for a burger and a bump. Our club has been a longtime supporter and look forward to continuing with many banquets and other events held there."
Jaskari said the entire Big Lake community is excited about the resort reopening. "We're kind of an island out here. People want a place to eat, congregate, and share stories," he said. "The facility when completed will seat 100 people, which will also be a nice addition for parties and other events in the Big Lake area."
Penney Prevost, whose parents, Jalmer and Joyce Angell, were the original course developers, shared original construction pictures and old Pine Knot articles with the new owners. Joyce Angell passed away earlier this year but always cherished the memory of opening "her" course on Aug. 4, 1968.
Amy DeCaigny said Angell's saying was Big Lake is the "biggest, littlest, toughest, friendliest golf course in the area." The plan is to uphold and expand that tradition, she said.