Chena Bend Golf Course: Every hole is a treasure, especially number 14
August 2, 2013
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Golf Digest magazine has voted Chena Bend Golf Course on Fort Wainwright one of the best courses to play in the state. Sports anchor--reporter Charlie Sokaitis of KTUU, the NBC television affiliate in Anchorage, recently visited the course and echoed the same sentiments.
As part of an ongoing summer series, Sokaitis travels the state finding someone to play on one of the course's signature holes at one of the local golf courses, but this time got way more than he bargained for. He got a story of love, not for the game of golf, but the story of how two people will always be connected to the 14th hole at Chena Bend. Although they both do love to play golf, it is more about how the game brought them together and what that special patch of grass means to them.
That day, the only person who could challenge Sokaitis was Melody Taylor, lead recreation assistant, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. She actually chose the par 3, 14th hole because it is considered the course signature hole, bordered on the left by the Chena River and a couple sneaky sand bunkers, and a lovely pond on the right. But it got even better when she told her story.
"I was married on this hole," she said. 'This is also where my husband proposed."
She continued the story. "Dirk was a second-season returning employee in 2011 when I came over from my job at the [Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard Area] ski hill to work as a lead recreation assistant at the golf course." He was a tractor operator whose job was to mow greens, fairways and tee boxes.
Taylor said they spent several weeks in the beginning getting to know each other, mostly around work. "I was impressed by his work ethic and the dedication. He took pride in making the course look its best."
As a single mom of three children, Taylor said she was hesitant toward a relationship that was anything more than friends. "But Dirk was persistent and the more I saw him, the more he impressed me."
On June 26, 2011, Taylor said she closed up late one night when Dirk and another co-worker were out golfing. "It was raining and I had ridden my bike to work that day. Dirk offered to drive me out of the course with his golf cart. On Hole 14, we stopped to talk a bit, Dirk put his hand on my face, told me that things were about to get complicated, and kissed me."
After that their relationship blossomed and Taylor introduced him to her children. "They fell in love with him too," she said.
A year later, they played a late round again on Hole 14. "It was supposed to be a no-pressure anniversary date," Taylor said. "Dirk brought sandwiches. It was raining again, and we were golfing in our special place. When I tapped my last stroke and went to pull my ball out of the cup, there was a box with a diamond ring inside." He asked her to marry him and she said yes.
On June 26 of this year, the Taylors had their wedding in front of the green on Hole 14, inviting friends, family and many golfers they knew through their Chena Bend affiliation. "It was beautiful," she said., "Our groomsmen and bridesmaids carried golf clubs and used them to pitch golf balls that they had written a wedding wish on into the sand trap before taking their places beside us. We gave out score-card programs and personalized golf balls, and they threw seed that matched the course's blend."
Taylor still works as the lead recreation assistant, but her husband no longer works there. She said, "Regardless of where the course of life leads, Chena Bend and Hole 14 will always be a significant part of our story."
The Chena Bend Golf Course is an 18-hole, par 72, tree-lined course located on the Chena River and is open to everyone. Club and cart rentals are available and there are as many golf stories as there are fish stories.
For more information on the course and upcoming events, call 353-6223 or visit www.ftwainwrightfmwr.com and get in the swing of things.