Fox’s Den, a $4.5 million 18-hole course opened in 1996, has reopened this year with new ownership, management and a commitment to revitalize the greens and foster a welcoming atmosphere.
Rod Ashman, who owns Golf Club of the Limberlost in Geneva, Ind., said he and a couple of local businessmen purchased the course and renamed it Celina Lynx.
“I’m the primary owner and I’m also the manager,” Ashman said. “So basically, I’m the face of the (course).”
Ashman, who’s been involved in the golf industry all of his career, brought in assistant managers Aaron Daniels from Portland, Ind. and Don Vander Horst of Celina.
“I started at Portland Country Club when I was in college, basically as a dishwasher. So I started at the bottom,” Ashman, 53, said, noting he’s experienced in all facets of golf course operation. “I think that’s what this place needed because it’s so expensive anymore to hire a general manager, a pro, a superintendent.”
He’s taken on multiple roles over the years at places such as Brookwood Golf Club and Fairview Golf Club in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Grey Goose Golf Club in Decatur, Ind.
Mooring Capital Fund LLC on Dec. 30, 2013, filed for foreclosure and damages against Fox’s Den’s parent company, Celina Golf, and its manager, Ted Bishop of Franklin, Ind., for defaulting on the mortgage.
The foreclosure case is still open in Mercer County Common Pleas Court, but Ashman said he and a few local businessmen whose names he declined to reveal, bought the course through Mooring Capital.
“We’re actually buying it from Celina Golf and it’s going through this Mooring,” Ashman said.
The newspaper was unable to contact Mooring Capital Fund.
Ashman said he found out about Fox’s Den’s situation through golfers at his club in Geneva, 45 percent of whom are Mercer County residents.
“I came, played it when it was first opened and I thought, ‘My gosh, who in the world would come in here and build such a great golf course in such a little town like Celina? It was just outstanding. It had a great reputation for years,” Ashman said.
He played the golf course again last fall.
“This place isn’t that bad,” he recalled thinking. “It just needs some TLC. It needs some proper maintenance. Somebody’s got to put some chemicals on it and fertilize it and spray it normally. It’s not rocket science.”
Ashman said his top priority is to restore the course’s greens. He intends to bring in a new package of speciality greens mowers.
“The greens have to be cut perfectly – that’s No. 1. I’m going to attack these greens,” he said.
Ashman also wants to combat silvery thread moss that has arisen on the course, a problem he said is being felt across the Midwest. Nothing kills the moss, but a proper application of chemicals should stunt and eventually displace the moss, he said.
“A golf course should be on a normal rotation of chemicals and fertilizers that should happen throughout the year on certain times. It’s not been a regular schedule like that,” he said.
Being a links-style course, it has many bunkers, Ashman said. He plans to eliminate some and keep – and improve – the strategic bunkers.
Ashman said it will probably take a full year before the course meets his standards, but golfers will notice immediate changes.
“The golf course will show improvement right away with what we do to it,” he said. “People will notice a big change.”
“We’re getting in so late right now,” he continued. “Golf season’s starting and we’re just in here with the keys so we’re kind of behind the eight ball.”
The “huge driving range” really drew Ashman’s attention. The range was initially developed to lure the PGA tour to come to town, he said.
“I plan to take part of that out there and add a couple of greens in part of that range and make a little short course, maybe a three or four hole, par-3 type short course,” he said.
The short course would be ideal for young and beginning golfers and people who want to chip, putt and hit a few shots during lunch, he said.
Ashman also wants to make the club more open to youth through outings and the planned short course.
“From Muncie on up to south of Fort Wayne, we’re having a hard time keeping our young people there,” he said, explaining that once they leave for college, they don’t come back.
But in the Celina area, the economy seems to be doing well, he noted.
“There’s jobs. People are working,” he said. “People seem really nice. It’s a beautiful area with the lake here. It just seemed like a no-brainer to me. It’s just a great area.”
Part of the push to get the youth back into golfing, Ashman said, involves toning down the the sport’s stodginess, such as the dress code.
Daniels, a 26-year-old lifelong golfer and former teacher, will focus on bringing in the youth – the “lifeblood of golfing” – through camps and outings as well as making Celina Lynx a vital part of the community, he said.
Vander Horst, the former city park and recreation department youth coordinator and a longtime city baseball coach, said he’s excited about the course’s possibilities with Ashman at the helm.
“It’s going to be a tremendous asset for the community,” Vander Horst said, noting the Celina Lynx also will attempt to use its clubhouse for graduation parties and other events.
Ashman emphasized the club is open to the public.
“We want people to come in here and talk to us,” he said.
The course generally opens at 7 a.m. daily. Hours vary depending on light and weather. Ashman recommends people schedule tee times.
“But if they come in and if we don’t have an outing, we’ll get them on somehow,” he said. “Our No. 1 objective is to say, ‘yes’ when we can say ‘yes.’ A lot of times golf courses over the years like to say ‘no’ and we’re not going to be like that. We’re going to try to welcome everybody in here.”