Area Golf: Leaving the Legacy
After 24 years, Chuck Klecatsky won't be at Cragun's Legacy Courses anymore. Instead he will be exploring a new golf project right next to his former employer.
Chuck Klecatsky is leaving a legacy.
Quite literally and figuratively.
The longtime golf professional and director of golf at Cragun’s Legacy Courses is leaving the golf course after being there for 24 years since its birth in 1997.
Klecatsky won’t be moving far as he will work at a new golf complex in the lakes area called Gravel Pit Golf that will be located right next to The Legacy Courses in Crow Wing County off Gull River Road.
Gravel Pit Golf is the brainchild of Sam Toumi, the son of Nate Toumi who owns the gravel pit property where the course will be on. With the help of Scott Hoffman and now Klecatsky, Gravel Pit Golf will be a 13-hole par 3 golf course.
“It’s my son Sam’s idea,” Nate Toumi said. “He had played a course out in Wisconsin and he came back and told me ‘Dad, we should make a golf course in the gravel pit.’”
The par 3 course isn’t the only thing Gravel Pit Golf will feature as the new lakes area golf experience will also feature a 13-hole extreme putting course as well as a natural turf bocce ball court. There will also be a bar and grill with a patio and a place to hold private weddings and events.
“It’ll be a little more than just a 13-hole golf course,” Klecatsky said. “We are going to have 13-hole putting green which will be modeled after the Himalayas course at St. Andrews (in Scotland). There’s going to be a lot of mounding and the natural grass will make it so anyone can play it.”
Hoffman will design the 13-hole par 3 course and he’s no stranger to the design process, having designed the Classic at Madden’s Resort and being the longtime superintendent there. The length of the par 3s will range from 60 yards to 200 yards.
“(Hoffman) is going to design it and I’m going to run the business,” Klecatsky said. “The clubhouse will be perched on this beautiful vista with patios overlooking the holes and we can see all 13 holes from the clubhouse.”
Why 13 holes? Klecatsky says that vision came from Hoffman.
“He said let’s not force this,” Klecatsky said. “Let’s not cut it off nine or try to make it 18. The site calls for 13 and that’s what we’ve done”
Gravel Pit Golf will hope to open next spring and Nate Toumi is excited about Klecatsky joining the team.
“Couldn’t ask for a better guy in the area to come in with his background and his expertise and knowledge of the golf world,” Nate Toumi said. “Chuck’s got the perfect mannerism and knowledge to put a golf course together and run it and take care of operations. We own the facility, but we don’t run the business. Chuck will handle all that and he’ll be the guy to take it to the next step.”
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Klecatsky is excited about the new golf facility, but said it’s bittersweet leaving The Legacy Courses.
“I was looking back at a lot of old pictures and old newspaper articles,” Klecatsky said. “One of the earliest memories is we started construction in August of 1997 and in the first part of September of 1998, we were playing golf already which is amazing for Minnesota.
“I have great anticipation of the new project, but (The Legacy Courses) is the longest business venture I’ve known in my career. Cragun’s is a great team and I know my departure allows Cragun’s to grow better in my mind. And I’ll be staying in the neighborhood to see what’s next.”
Klecatsky got his start in the lakes area golf business at Grand View Lodge when Tom Kientzle hired him to be in charge of outside service at The Pines.
When Kientzle left to build Cragun’s Legacy Courses he brought Klecatsky with him to be the head professional at the new property.
“We’ve had quite the relationship and he’s done a heck of a job,” said Kientzle, who’s now the pro shop manager at Madden’s Pine Beach East and West courses. “I could’ve hired any pro in the state and he wasn’t even a pro. He’s very good at what he does and that’s why when we hired our team at The Legacy — he was probably our first choice. I’m very happy for him in his new venture and I think he’ll do a great job and his background will lend him to doing very well.”
Kientzle mentioned that people seemed to be drawn to Klecatsky’s personality, which is why he had such a long successful run at The Legacy.
“He’s really outgoing. He’s always looking to see how others can succeed and very conscious of the guest and their needs,” Kientzle said. “That’s why I hired him. He’s awesome and a special guy. He’s done a really good job everywhere I’ve been and worked with him. He always got the job done and was really good with people and his personality.”
Klecatsky saw The Legacy Courses grow from 18 holes to 36 holes and, as he leaves, there is a current project for The Legacy Courses to be 45 holes all designed by golf icon Tom Lehman.
“Now that the Tom Lehman project has come on it’s kind of rebirthed The Legacy,” Klecatsky said. “It should become a great golf course.”
Klecatsky saw the PGA Tour, Canada which is called the Mackenzie Tour pick The Legacy Courses to host the CRMC Championship, for which Klecatsky served as its tournament director. Sadly, due to COVID-19 he never got to see Mackenzie Tour play in either 2020 or 2021. The tournament hopes to make its debut in 2022.
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“That was a great team effort to get the CRMC Championship to Cragun’s,” Klecatsky said. “It’s a shame we weren’t able to execute it, but it’s definitely one of the components I’m going to miss being a part of.”
Kletcatsky had plenty of people to thank as he finished his last day at Cragun’s Legacy Courses.
“I’d like to thank Dutch and Irma Cragun for allowing me to come as a young person and stay and share their passion for hospitality,” he said. “Erik Peterson, when he came on in 2011, was a big change for Cragun’s. Our longtime head professional, Tim Johnson, he’s been a teammate of mine 22 years, and Matt McKinnon the superintendent who has been here as long as I’ve been here. The success of The Legacy has come down to Matt and his team because anyone can build a golf course, but to maintain it at the level he has made people want to come back.”
The thing he’ll miss most about The Legacy Courses is the people.
“That’s the part that was always fun about coming here,” Klecatsky said. “We had a staff that loved taking care of people.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.