Bill Skura and other longtime Westchester Golf Course players still long for the day when they can once again fill out a complete scorecard for their favorite neighborhood course.
For more than two decades, golfers at the Westchester course have had to settle for ending their game on the 15th green, rather than the traditional 18th green.
Over the years it has taken some adjusting for regular golfers who are used to playing three more holes at most any other course.
“Who ever heard of playing on a 15-hole golf course?” asked Skura, as he struck a b all during a round late this month.
Finishing golf in 15 holes has made players feel like the game was incomplete — similar to ending a football game in the third quarter — and it can also impact their golfing handicap for tournaments.
“It feels like you haven’t quite finished the game,” noted 81-year-old Chuck Clark, a Westchester resident and former marshal of the course who has played there since 1969.
Clark and Skura, 75, also a longtime Westchester resident, remember when the golf course near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was a standard 18 holes. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that three of the holes were taken away so that the airport could construct Westchester Parkway.
Airport officials at the time made a commitment to the community that the holes would be restored at the course, along with a new clubhouse being built and the course being refurbished, Skura said. Efforts have since been initiated by the airport to restore the holes but for one reason or another, they have fallen through, he said.
But Skura said he and other community members have not forgotten about the commitment to get the holes back and they have spent years pressuring the airport to follow through on the pledge.
“It’s been a battle,” said Skura, a retired Hughes Aircraft employee who has been active in the effort to restore the holes. “I’ve always told the [Board of Airport Commissioners] that if you want to build up the community confidence, go ahead and do what your predecessors said they were going to do 30 years ago.
“We want them to keep their word and complete the course.”
Skura noted that a “generation change” has occurred since the holes were removed, as many young golfers today don’t know Westchester ever was an 18-hole course.
Completion of the Westchester Golf Course received recent attention from the community, as it was mentioned at a meeting on the LAX Northside property earlier this month.
Westchester golfers just might see their restoration effort be fulfilled, as airport planning officials say that plans to replace the holes are “moving forward.”
Roger Johnson, deputy executive director for environmental affairs at Los Angeles World Airports, said in an interview last month that the airport has a consulting firm under contract for the design of the three holes.
“We’re doing everything we can to expedite it,” Johnson said of the hole restoration effort.
Once the design work is complete and an environmental review is performed, the airport can move toward the construction phase, Johnson said. Officials are hoping that the construction work can be performed by airport crews, he said.
The holes would most likely be placed on seven acres of airport property along the eastern side of the course near the 14th hole, Skura said.
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has also been pushing for the holes to be restored, expressed confidence that the airport’s commitment will be fulfilled.
“The project is on schedule and everyone is working as fast as possible to come through with the commitment to the community,” Rosendahl said.
Mark Friedman, senior vice president for the American Golf Corporation, which manages the Westchester course, said the corporation is excited about the opportunity to once again offer an 18-hole course.
“Golf is a game of traditions and it’s traditionally an 18-hole game,” Friedman said.
Despite the shortened course, Westchester has remained a popular spot for golfers on the Westside, he noted.
“The community really supports Westchester,” Friedman said. “It’s a fine municipal golf course.”
Skura and other Westchester regulars agree, saying that the convenience of the neighborhood course and its reasonable cost are what keeps them coming back.
“It’s a good local course,” said Skura, who added that he has developed many friendships with fellow golfers over the years.
“I like the game of golf and it’s convenient for me to play.”
One concern of the longtime Westchester golfers is that once the holes are returned, the cost to play will dramatically rise. Some of the older golfers have also joked that whenever the time comes, they might not be able to physically play the complete course.
Friedman said that although the course will have some additional expenses due to maintenance of the extra holes, the cost to play will remain reasonable.
Hoping they can soon putt on the 18th green, Westchester golfers also look forward to seeing a decades-long community commitment come to fruition.
“It would mean that [airport officials] kept their word and recognize that the community has a right to have a recreational facility like this that’s been here for 40 years,” Skura said.