There were many brave military veterans returning home from world wars who did not want to be called, and insisted that they were not, ‘heroes’. They maintained that the true ‘heroes’ were those who died while fighting for their country. And while golf might not be regarded as a life or death situation (avid golf nuts may possibly disagree), Highland Park, Illinois has raised a home-grown son who may be considered to be its very own ‘golf hero’.
On Monday, May 24, the golfer who is most associated with and linked to Sunset Valley Golf Club will see a decades’ long dream realized, as the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Highland Park Youth Golf Development Center at Sunset Valley Golf Club will take place at 11:30 am. This new center is both the dream and the gift of Joel Hirsch.
Elected to the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 1999, Joel Hirsch is among the best amateur golfers in Illinois history. Joel is a two-time winner of the Senior British Amateur, a back-to-back winner of the Illinois Amateur, and twice winner of the Chicago District Golf Association (CDGA) Amateur. He was named the CDGA’s Player of the Year twice and was also a three-time CDGA Senior Player of the Year. At age 58, Hirsch qualified for his fourth Western Open. Runner-up in the 1981 British Amateur at St. Andrews, Joel has twice been a low amateur in the British Senior Open, and one-time low amateur in the U.S. Senior Open, a veteran of 38 USGA championships, including nine U.S. Amateurs. Joel started playing golf as a child at Sunset Valley GC.
Since 2018, the Parks Foundation of Highland Park along with Illinois Golf Hall of Famer, Joel Hirsch, have raised funds for a new state-of-the-art Youth Golf Development Center at Sunset Valley Golf Club. This unique facility, typically only seen at private clubs and learning centers, will be Highland Park’s and the surrounding communities’ primary Center for youth golf instruction and skill development in the fundamentals of the short game –the most critical golf skills. The new Center will allow young golfers to practice shots up to 50 yards from fairways, rough areas, and bunkers with a real golf course’s feel and aesthetic. The Center will also feature hitting bays for long shot practice. When not used for its primary purpose: youth golf instruction, the Center will also serve as a practice facility for all Sunset Valley’s golfers.
The new Youth Golf Development Center is located on a one-acre plot of land adjacent to the new Sunset Valley golf course. It is intended to carry on the club’s tradition of being the primary community Center for future generations to learn and love the game. Young players will have the opportunity to learn and improve their game within SVGC’s award-winning larger environment. There will be no better place for young golfers to learn golf’s social and cultural lessons than being a part of the experience at the Center.
The Youth Golf Development Center will feature group and private lessons, as well as summer camps. The YGD Center will be home to the Highland Park High School Girls and Boys Golf Teams, IJGA tournament players, and PGA Junior Leagues; Sunset Valley golfers will also have access to the Center when not used for instruction
With its history beginning just a couple of years following the end of World War I, and continuing to the present day, Sunset Valley Golf Club has been a valued part of the Highland Park community for over a century. Generations of residents have learned to play golf at SVGC, including favorite son, Joel Hirsch.
During the afternoon of May 24, following the ribbon cutting ceremony, a sold-out afternoon golf outing fundraiser is expected to bring Hirsch’s dream to fruition and fund the completion of the final amenities of the Center.
“From an early age, playing golf taught me important skills in problem solving, built my self-confidence, challenged me to keep improving and has kept me active and fit while enjoying the great outdoors with my friends and colleagues,” Hirsch said. “Because my love of the game started at Sunset Valley, as well as that of so many others in our community, it is hoped together we can bring the same opportunity to today’s Highland Park youth.”
The new Highland Park Youth Golf Development Center at Sunset Valley Golf Club was designed by Rick Jacobson of Jacobson Golf Course Design, Inc., Libertyville, IL.