At Beatrice Mini Golf, you can still see the scars left by the storm that blew through town on June 16. The roof is temporary, some of the obstacles don’t work and there are piles of rubble surrounding the place.
But, if it weren’t for the help and support of local residents, things could be a lot worse.
Mike and Sharon Gay, who own and run the course, got a phone call from the Beatrice Police Department at their Lincoln home the morning after the storm. The police said there was significant damage at the golf course and they needed to come down right away.
The 80 mile-an-hour winds that roared through Gage County knocked down the fence that surrounds the course, pulling some of the posts out of their concrete foundations.
The roof was ripped off of the clubhouse, cracking the cinder block walls and taking out the electricity before it smashed to the ground across the first and second holes.
A new wooden playhouse, which had been installed just weeks before, was completely destroyed. Trees were cracked in half, obstacles lay broken on the ground and the whole area was flooded.
Once the storm had passed, the residents who regularly make the miniature golf course a summer tradition had one question: “How can we help?”
“The reason we stay open is for the families,” owner Sharon Gay said. “We had a lot of families come out and help us. We posted on Facebook that we were going to come out after church on Sunday and invited anybody to come and join us if they wanted to. We had people here before we got here. They had already moved part of the fence over and had a trailer-load almost ready to go.”
The damage was immense, Sharon said. The large ash tree that provided shade during the hot summer months had lost several of its branches, which broke the swinging pole obstacle and a wooden rocket ship. The roof of the tiny steamboat had been ripped off and the wiring on the spinning dots obstacle was destroyed. The fridge and freezer in the clubhouse were flooded and had to be thrown away.
There were potentially months-worth of work awaiting them, but after volunteers helped clear some debris, they were able to open less than a week later. Someone even brought by some temporary roofing to protect the clubhouse.
Joseph’s College of Cosmetology next door allowed them to use some electricity so they could use leaf blowers to remove the remaining debris from the course.
They were ready to reopen on June 23, though they still didn’t have electricity at the mini golf course. That meant the windmill wasn’t turning and there weren’t any lights, Sharon said, but that didn't keep people away. As long as there wasn't water in the holes and the golf balls didn't get caught by debris, golfers were happy to play.
“We had some college girls come on Thursday night the week after,” she said. “They were here until about 10:30 and they were using their flashlights on their phones to play.”
Things are still out of place and not everything works the way it used to, but the mini golf course is still staying busy.
This week, seventh grader students Luke Feist, Mason Leonard, Dominik Salazar and Josh Buhr were spending time at the golf course and discussing their favorite courses. The one with bowling balls and water hazards was a favorite, as was course three, with its curvy hills. But, there was one course in particular that they all found to be tricky.
“This one is definitely not my favorite,” Mason said, pushing the swinging pole that knocks golf balls away from the eighth hole.
For the group, Beatrice Mini Golf is a summer tradition, just like it has been for a lot of children since it opened in the early 1970s. Back then, it was known as Indian Creek Miniature Golf, and went through several owners before the Gays bought it in 2006.
Now, it continues to be a fun summer activity for children and adults alike.
“We got bored,” Luke said. “It's summer. It's something to do instead of the pool.”
The students had been there two or three times already this summer, they said, and they’d definitely be coming back again.
The miniature golf course is a place where memories are made, Sharon said, and that’s the whole reason she and her husband stick around. It's place that they want to be around for the next generation.
To complete the repairs, the Gays are trying to raise between $5,000 and $10,000. The clubhouse will probably need to be rebuilt, or at least have a new roof put on, and the fence will need to be replaced.
A GoFundMe campaign was established to help raise money, and there is a donation jar at the front desk for anyone who would like to support the rebuilding effort. Anyone with construction experience who would like to lend a hand is more than welcome, Sharon said.
Standing at the clubhouse window as bright sunlight poked between the holes in the temporary roof, Sharon waved to a young girl going past.
“Any luck on Plinko?” Sharon asked.
“No, but my mom almost made it,” the girl replied, waving goodbye. “Thank you!”
“That's why we're open,” she said. “Because of families like that.”