Family ties at Wausaukee Club

Daniel and Evan Belland maintain the private nine-hole executive course in Wisconsin with just their own four hands.


Filed to: Wisconsin

Wausaukee Club
Daniel (left) and Evan Belland. Photo by Jaki Popovich

The maintenance crew at Wausaukee Club consists of two people who share one name. Meet Daniel and Evan Belland. Together, this father-and-son team oversees Wausaukee Club, a private nine-hole executive golf course located about 170 miles north of Milwaukee in Athelstane, Wis.

For generations, the club’s 35 members have stayed in large cabins nestled in a forest with private lakes and large pines. At their getaway destination, the members eat their meals in a dining hall where the staff rings a bell to signal that dinner is being served.

The Bellands joined forces at Wausaukee Club five years ago, although it took some coaxing for the son to come aboard. “He sweetened the deal and said he’d buy me a membership to a local golf course if I came to work for him,” Evan says. “After working a summer for him, I really liked it. I just kept coming back year after year after year.”

GCSAA Class A member Daniel Belland, who is 65 and a 14-year member of the association, has become a fixture at Wausaukee Club. He was hired in 2000 after overseeing the grow-in of River Pines in Green Bay, Wis. When he started, Wausaukee Club had some issues that needed immediate attention. “They had no discernible fairways. Everything was cut at 1 inch. It was pretty much sand and clover, tee to green,” Daniel says.

Back when he was an elementary-education student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Daniel worked as a manager for a garden center, which led him in a new direction. He launched his own landscape business before landing work at River Pines. It was about that time that he met Marc Davison, CGCS, a 35-year GCSAA member who currently oversees Bishops Bay Country Club in Middleton, Wis. Nowadays, Daniel hires Davison to aerify his greens at Wausaukee Club.

Davison thinks Daniel has found his niche. “He definitely was a self-learner, and he’s a dedicated and loyal guy who made good for himself,” Davison says.

Daniel tapped his family for help when he needed to hire a new assistant superintendent. Evan, who is 34 and a three-year GCSAA member, had always enjoyed playing golf and briefly helped his father on the River Pines project. At Wausaukee Club, Daniel walks the course every morning while Evan mows fairways and rough and smooths bunkers. “We’ve developed a great routine,” Evan says. “We’re always busy, have something to do, and find ways to improve the course.”

Both Evan and his brother, Mitchell, have worked for their father. Mitchell isn’t in the business, but he spent one summer helping on the golf course and could be a success in golf course maintenance if he wanted. At least, that’s Daniel’s take. “They (sons) seem to be my best workers. They just come in, do their jobs, and I don’t have to tell them what to do,” he says.

It has taken only two Bellands to produce successful results at Wausaukee Club. “They do an awesome job. The members love the course,” says Ken Cramer, the club’s general manager. “Dan takes a lot of pride in it. The quality from tee to green is hard to beat.”

The Bellands have worked to advance themselves within the golf course management profession. Dan has participated in Northern Great Lakes GCSA events, while Evan is determined to upgrade his standing. “I’m working toward GCSAA Class A membership,” he says.

Is there a succession plan in the works for son to replace father someday? There’s nothing official, but Cramer seems to admire what Evan has become in the industry. “Evan is a communicator and has phenomenal leadership skills. I think if he pursues this and continues the course he is on, that he’ll be a great asset to your association,” Cramer says.

Daniel Belland doesn’t sound ready to retire. He says others hope he doesn’t. “The members love me. They want me to stay until I’m 70,” he says.

Evan Belland is just fine working with no timetable, side by side with his dad, for as long as possible. “I definitely could see myself doing this the rest of my career,” Evan says. “I am still learning. My dad is easy to work with. Even if I make a mistake, he uses it as an opportunity to learn. We joke that he is the brains and I am the brawn of the operation. We have a good thing going here.”

Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.

Filed to: Wisconsin