From left, Canal Shores staff Charlie McCormick, Melissa Polivka, Tony Frandria, the course general manager,  and Skyler Street, golf operations manager, stand by one of the new electric carts the course is rolling out in this, its 100th anniversary year. RoundTable photo

Chicago’s soggy spring-turned-into-summer hasn’t benefited Canal Shores Golf Course any more than it has other courses in the area.

But when the weather has been bearable, “we’re getting a lot of players, and people see the course is in good shape, all things considered,” said Tim Pretzsch, one of the course’s board members.

Mr. Pretzsch and other members believe the area’s only public course is on the upside, in this, the 100th anniversary of its founding.

Despite the inclement weather, course operators have already held several events to mark the anniversary year, and have a number of others planned moving forward.

Peter D. Jans, a former Evanston alderman and mayor, founded the course in 1919 in the belief that “people didn’t take up golf due to its expense and wanted to improve access to the game. Canal Shores still follows that principle today,” according to course’s web page,

Course officials stayed true to that mission in their first big event of the anniversary year—Women’s Golf Day, on June 4, hosting about 30 women from the area, said Melissa Polivka, the course’s Manager of Events, Sponsorships  and Marketing.

The women, Ms. Polivka included, spent about two hours on golf and another two hours networking at the event, she said.

On the golf side, “it was very enlightening,” said Ms. Polivka, who is learning the game herself. “We had one of our instructors here do a program covering everything from what a driver was, when you putt and when you chip.”

Course officials then followed up with Canal Shores’ first annual open on June 7, drawing about 25 participants.

Future events include hosting the July 9 program in the City’s Starlight Concert Series. The featured performer is ESSO, which performs dance music from North, Central and South America. (More information can be found at

Then on Sept. 22, Canal Shores will team up with the American Legion Post 42, with whom it shares the clubhouse at 1030 Central St. That organization is also celebrating its 100th year.

Throughout the celebratory year, officials are encouraging golfers to contribute their favorite memories of the course, where generations of players have learned the game, “so we have a better history going forward,” Ms. Polivka said.

Some have already come through. “We got an interesting one the other day,” offered Mr. Pretzsch. “A guy said he caddied for Bill Murray once.”

Indeed the name of Mr. Murray, famed for his role in the movie “Caddyshack,” may be intoned in Canal Shores’ circles more often than Woods, Nicklaus or Palmer.

Canal Shores, back then known as the Peter Jans Memorial Golf Course, was one of the courses in the area on which Mr. Murray reportedly learned the game. According to local lore, he also worked in the course’s snack shop, then located outside the current course’s 15th hole.

“He actually came and played here a couple of years ago,” pointed out Mr. Pretzsch. “He was in town and came and played with his brother.”

The course has had a number of names. Before it was the Peter Jans it was the Frank Govern Memorial Golf Course and before that the Evanston-Wilmette Golf Course (“You can kind of mark how old someone is based on what they call the course,” said Ms. Polivka).

The course winds along the North Shore Channel, with 11 holes in Evanston and seven in Wilmette. The course actually sits on Metropolitan Reclamation District land, which leases the 82-acre property to Evanston and Wilmette. Those entities, in turn, then sublease the course to the Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association, Canal Shores’ governing board.

Lawrence Hemingway, Evanston’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, and Michelle Bush, Project Coordinator at the Chandler Newberger Center, are the City’s representatives on the board.

Reaching its 100th anniversary is an accomplishment in itself, said Karl Leinberger, President of Canal Shores. “To be around for 100 years and to be this important to the community means a lot,” he said.

The course is a non-profit and receives no tax money. As such it is dependent on outside financial contributions and volunteer efforts, Mr. Leinberger pointed out in his annual message.

For that reason, “we need your financial support, volunteer time, and enthusiasm for our events to sustain our success,” he said.

Looking ahead, Mr. Leinberger identified a number of course goals, including continued buildup of the course’s youth program, which annually attracts over 500 youth; and putting into effect an ecological master plan, which includes the removal of invasive species, development of pocket parks and sustaining natural habitats.

To lay the groundwork for sustaining the course into its second century, the board is pursuing a two-phase multi-year project, which includes developing a comprehensive understanding of the conditions and possibilities on the property.

One of the issues is to address the changing nature of golf, looking to broaden its appeal. Course officials point to lower green fees than at other courses and the availability of five and 10-hole loops as inducements to bring in more golfers.

Golfers also point to a certain informality at Canal Shores. “If you’re a beginner out here and you make an etiquette mistake or if you’re a beginner and you’re really struggling to get to the green,” Ms. Polivka said, “no one is behind you with a stopwatch and no one is behind you to see if you’re wearing the right clothes.”

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.