Veteran recalls great golf at Village Greens

served as a refuge for veterans for many years. After all, Doug Hathaway, the club’s former PGA professional, once noted that Port Orchard’s Village Greens Golf Course originally was a small housing development for the military and they just “pushed dirt around” when it was constructed.
Despite it inadequacies — the small fairways cluttered by trees and postage-stamp sized greens — the course for years was popular with veterans. Gordon Sipe, 88, who once lived within walking distance of the course on Fircrest Drive, said the Village Greens men’s club featured more than 100 members a generation ago. He said most were veterans.
Sipe, who now lives in Belfair, enjoyed the camaraderie to the point that he would drive from Rochester, NY, Thurston County, to play at Village Greens. Similar to others, such as John Bauer, who hand-raked the course for more than a decade, Sipe was a de facto employee who never accepted a paycheck.
“You would come up here in the morning and the golf course wouldn’t be open,” said Sipe, adding that he obtained keys to the course from a neighbor. “I would come down and open the course even though I didn’t work here. I started taking money and putting it under the counter into a box. That’s how I got involved here.”
But Sipe never complained. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he developed a kinship with his peers on the links similar to others from his era enjoyed at the VFW.
It just took him years to get into the sport — perhaps because of his career. After finishing his service, Sipe returned from San Francisco to Kitsap County in 1946. He planned to attend Washington State University, but blew a tire en route to the Palouse. With just a few dollars in his pocket, Sipe went home.
Sipe never attended college and instead returned to the military, where he served as a recruiter before leaving when the Vietnam War broke out. That enabled him to experience some of the work he envisioned during World War II. He ended up stationed in the South Pacific, where he worked to keep “the Japanese from going into Australia.” Sipe said he spent more time in jungles than on a ship.
“What … are we doing here?” Sipe recalls saying while on base. “I want to go to sea and shoot them cannons.”
Sipe did not pick up a club until the 1970s when he worked as an aftermarket motor parts district manager in Oregon. One of his friends was opening a golf course near his house and he was able to play there free.
“I was probably the worst golfer in the world,” Sipe said. “But it was maybe about a month that I got a hole-in-one. That was glorious. I was hooked.”
Hathaway noted in a 2008 interview that Sipe and others often goaded him about never having a hole-in-one.
“That’s one of the most irritating things around because I’ve had a lot of double eagles, which is much more rare,” he said. “But nobody cares.”
Sipe has 13 in his career and Hathaway said, “he can’t hit it 60 yards in the air.” People often ask Sipe about all of the hole-in-one’s he has scored and he tells them the key “is to play a short course all of the time. You have four par-4s here and the rest of them are all potential hole-in-one’s.”
Sipe, who moved back to Washington in the late 1980s after first retiring from his career before leaving again for a job in Florida in 1994 and then Texas for about seven years, said he also benefited from playing 300 rounds of golf some years. Most came at Village Greens, a 3,255-yard, par-58 course that was built in 1958.
He now is among the last of the once-bustling men’s club at Village Greens. Sipe estimates there now are about 20 members.
“I know a lot of things go along with the passing of guys,” he said. “I used to admire guys who were 90 years old out here playing golf. Now I’m the next one that’s going to be 90.”
Turmoil surrounding the course has not helped the situation, either. Hathaway leased the course from Kitsap County in 1991 and left in 2009 after a tiff with its parks and recreation department. At the time of his departure, Hathaway said the executive-length, 18-hole facility had lost money every year since 2005. Much-needed upgrades to the course were not the only aspect that was neglected.
Now, Sipe worries a tradition among veterans might end.
“There was no effort by anyone to replace the group and bring them on in,” Sipe said. “You’ve got to do a little [advertising]. They’ve got a big sign here that says Village Greens, but nothing about golf.”