April Fool’s Day is commonly reserved for practical jokes.



So when Ralph Hembree tells new and old members of the Blue Springs Country Club that there is now once again a PGA golf pro on the grounds, he may understand why people might think he is joking.

April Fool’s Day is commonly reserved for practical jokes.

So when Ralph Hembree tells new and old members of the Blue Springs Country Club that there is now once again a PGA golf pro on the grounds, he may understand why people might think he is joking.

“We contacted the PGA and let them know that we were very interested in having a professional on the grounds,” Hembree said. “It was important to us to have that distinction. I just felt fortunate that our paths crossed.”

The golf pro, Mark Baumann, a previous member of the Nebraska Section of the PGA, also served as a teaching professional for Simply Golf.

By hiring Baumann, the club also will be recognized as a True-Temper Performance Fitting Center, “an elite network of certified professionals who provide excellence in the golf retail and custom fitting industry,” according to information supplied by the club.

Baumann brings with him a firm but personable quality to a position that is oftentimes a hard sell for new players.

“I’m about the three F’s,” Baumann said from his office, where club bags leaned up against the wall like tree branches. “Food, fun and friendship. That’s what it’s about – the food is here, the fun is here, and I’m trying to bring the friendship.”

There are also the four I’s: inspire, improve, involve and increase. The four points are, ultimately, about inspiring groups, improving play, involving more and more groups and increasing all categories of the golf experience.

A Nebraska native, Baumann said he was excited about the opportunity to come work in Blue Springs.

“I love the course,” he said. “It’s more traditional than modern, but that’s its charm,” he said.

Still, he knows he has his work cut out for him. Golf attendance nationwide reached its peak in 2007, according to estimates that Baumann knows well, and then began to fall. With the economy in the basement, Baumann understands that club memberships and the costs to play golf are two of the first things to go from a person’s budget.

“Things are improving, though,” he said. “You can see it. It’s going to be an exciting season, and an exciting first year for me.”

Baumann is just one of several changes at Blue Springs Country Club, which Hembree bid on through his company, Summit Investment Group, for about $1.2 million last year.

On Dec. 31, the transaction was complete.

“It went very smoothly,” Hembree said. “No issues.”

In early December, Hembree laid out an ambitious list and time frame concerning various improvements at the club. The following are the improvements and expected completion dates:

n Sand bunker renovation – One of the most significant improvements at the club in many years, drainage, shape and quality of the sand in the bunkers will improve the course for years.

Hembree said all 55 bunkers will be improved.

“We’re about 50 percent finished, and hope to be done on March 15,” he said.

n The clubhouse kitchen has been renovated and redecorated. The pro shop renovation and redecorating project is currently ongoing with an expected completion date of March 15.

n The ordering process for latest merchandise for the shop will be finished soon in time for the golf season.

Hembree said the golf cart fleet, most of which are about four years old, may be completely or partially replaced.

“We have to make a decision soon, though, in time for the season,” he said.

In all, as much as $300,000 worth of improvements are being made at the clubhouse and grounds. The last major improvement was to the greens and bunkers about nine years ago.

Hembree, who has made the Kansas City metro area his home since he moved here in 1969, watched the club’s financial difficulties unfold in front of him throughout the years, specifically the last three years when the ailing economy made luxury expenses like a golf club an easy casualty on priority lists.

Since the completion of the transaction, Hembree said many people have shown him support. While membership numbers remain slightly below that period when they were at their highest, Hembree said the club is working on a new marketing plan.

Membership reached its highest number in 2000 when 475 called the club a second home. The facility offered an 18-hole golf course, clubhouse amenities, fine dining, a swimming pool and other offerings. When the economy started to sour about 2008, members began scaling back their lifestyles, and many dropped out of the club, which has average monthly dues of about $200.

The club began falling behind on debt and bills, eventually defaulting on a note secured by the real estate. A member purchased the bank note on the property, and the facility and its surrounding grounds were put into foreclosure.

Rumors surfaced that the club would be made public or that the building and grounds converted into apartment housing until Hembree stepped in.

For more information, visit www.countryclubofbluesprings.com.