By DAVID GREEN
Justen and Kristy Reitzel don't see a lot of changes ahead for DeMor Hills Golf Course. As the new owners of Morenci's 18-hole course, their first objective is to continue with the services already in place.
After several delays, former owners Charlie and Diana Easter met with the Reitzels Monday afternoon to sign the sale papers, ending 28 years of ownership for the Easter family.
There is one change that golfers and non-golfers alike will notice when the course first opens this spring: there will be no full-service restaurant.
With the closing on the sale just this week, the Reitzels are getting a late start to prepare for the golfing season. Golf is the chief product, Justen said, and the restaurant will have to wait.
"There will be food and beverages for golfers," he said. "Just not the full restaurant as in the past."
The Reitzels are well aware of the popularity of the restaurant—even to those who never touch a golf club—and they aim to restore service as soon as possible.
Justen earned a turf grass management degree and has worked as an assistant golf course superintendent for four years. Kristy has office management experience. Visitors will see her in the office, Justen said, while he'll spend a lot of time out on the course.
The Bowling Green couple had heard about DeMor Hills as a good golf course, but had never played a round here until they heard that it was for sale and came to take a look. They liked what they saw. The country atmosphere with its natural setting, the small town link, a family operation—it was just the kind of business they wanted to be associated with.
The Reitzels are in the process of contacting representatives from last year's leagues and they've sent post cards to everyone on last year's membership roster to make sure they know the course will soon open. After all, the word got around that offers were made to turn the property back into farm land after 50 years as a golf course.
"Charlie gets credit for keeping it as a golf course," Justen said.
The offers were there, Charlie said, but he and Diana hated to see that happen.
“We stuck with the plan to keep it a golf course,” he said. “You put 28 years of your life into something and you don’t want to see it go away.”
The Reitzels have heard there was a lot of concern that the facility might close for good.
"It makes us feel good to know that people want it to stay open," Justen said, but for the near future, he wouldn't mind seeing snow in the forecast for a while longer.
There's a lot of work to do with equipment and grounds before an opening date is established, and the Reitzels are still settling into their new home at the course.
“It’s been a bittersweet day,” Charlie said after signing over ownership, but already he knows his life is going to be a lot less stressful.
There’s plenty of hard work involved in running a golf course and restaurant, but there’s a good side, too.
“All the good people we met—that’s how we justify it,” Charlie said. “We wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”