EBENSBURG - Located just west of the city limits, Ebensburg Country Club welcomes golfers with a definite mix of past and present.
The club's original front-nine layout was built in 1923. It is a design typical of its time - featuring small greens and only a few sand traps - while the newer back nine includes a modern design with contoured fairways and significant elevation changes.
Ebensburg Country Club began like many area courses built in the early part of the last century. Prominent local citizens who were interested in the game of golf came together to help construct a golf course of their own. Shares of stock were sold to raise the funds needed to begin construction, and, by 1923, Ebensburg had a course.
Like nearly every course in the area at that time, the new layout included just nine holes, and playing around the course twice - from two sets of tees - allowed golfers to complete a full 18 holes. A plaque inside the clubhouse displays the names of every club champion since the club was founded, including some of the finest golfers in our area such as Sam Runzo, Allen Rosensteel and Frank Frontino.
Another prominent figure in the club's history was PGA professional Johnny Felus, who served as the club's head pro for several years during the early 1980s.
Through its first seven decades, Ebensburg Country Club remained content as a nine-hole course - despite witnessing the expansion of several other local clubs. During the 1960s, central Pennsylvania saw a mini golf boom as both Park Hills Country Club and Summit Country Club expanded to 18-hole layouts.
At the same time Iron Masters, Sinking Valley and Scotch Valley Country Clubs also opened 18-hole layouts.
By the late 1990s, however, the club did become serious about expansion. It already owned enough additional land for a second nine (115 acres) and eventually turned to the architectural firm Beidel Design Associates to do the design work.
Beidel architects completed extensive work to survey the club's available land and eventually presented a proposal to club members. Construction of a new nine holes required a leap of faith from the membership and club leaders, and it would take a tremendous commitment from all involved to complete a project that, in the end, culminated in a cost of $1 million.
Ground was broken on the project in the spring of 1999. That same summer was spent moving earth, building sand traps and greens, and seeding the entire course. By the end of that year, the new layout was nearly completed. The newly-designed nine holes opened for public play in the spring of 2000 and has been a much-welcomed addition, helping Ebensburg Country Club remain as one of the more successful semi-private clubs in central Pennsylvania.
"We have a great membership here," current club president John Bahorik said. "We have so many members who pitch in and volunteer to do extra work at our course. There's a real sense of camaraderie here that helps to make us a successful club."
Bahorik credited club pro Jeff Homady.
"Jeff does a great job for our club - booking outings, running tournaments and working with our members," Bahorek said.
Homady, who also coaches the Mount Aloysius College golf team, has held his club pro position for the past 11 years. He is a graduate of nearby Bishop Carroll High School and Penn State.
"This is definitely a blue-collar club, with a tight-knit, friendly membership," Homady said. "People know each other here, and they're always willing to get involved. And our superintendent, Randy Sodmont, does a fantastic job. He treats the course like it's a part of his family, and it shows."
The result is a course that many golfers in Cambria County and beyond enjoy on a daily basis. Forrest Fordham of Richmond has been a member for the past two years. He plays every chance he gets, often bringing his son along to teach him the game.
"It's a challenging course, and the members here are really nice," Fordham said. "It's a great place to play."