West Bend Lakes GC fire

Eleven fire departments responded to the fire that destroyed the clubhouse at West Bend Lakes Golf Club.

It’s not exactly business as usual at West Bend Lakes Golf Club in the aftermath of a fire that destroyed the clubhouse, but the 18-hole course in the Town of Trenton is open for play.

Once they get to the first tee, golfers won’t notice anything different, according to owner Lee Merkel.

“The course is completely open,” Merkel said. “We have carts. We’re answering phones. We’ve got the internet back up, so people can call and make tee times or go online. We’ve had some glitches, but for the most part it’s been very operational.”

Fire broke out in the clubhouse kitchen around 1:30 p.m. Sunday and quickly spread to the attic rafters and the roof. About 15 people evacuated the decades-old building, part of which was once a house. No one was hurt.

“As best I can tell, it was electrical,” Merkel said. “It’s an older building and the fire was in the walls and the ceiling. It was the middle of the daytime. You’d think that the fire department could put it out but the problem was, they had to knock holes in the walls and the roof to get water in there. It was so windy that every time they knocked a hole in it, it got worse.

“There were 11 fire departments there and they couldn’t get it out.”

Merkel, whose family has owned West Bend Lakes for about 20 years, said the insurance company already has approved razing the building, which was a total loss. Over the years, two additions and a deck were added to the original structure.

A trailer will be brought on site next week, Merkel said, and will serve as a temporary clubhouse until a new clubhouse can be built. He said he expected construction to start in June or July and the building to be finished before Christmas.

“The insurance company has been very good,” he said. “We’re happy that we’re going forward as quickly as we are. Right now, we’re operating out of the (halfway house) that was not affected. It’s a small building that we used at the turn for hamburgers and brats and stuff. There will be beverage service and we’ll have snacks, but no food.”

Merkel said he was touched by the outpouring of support from area businesses and the golf community.

“Oh, yeah, everybody has reached out,” he said. “It’s been heartwarming. Not only our members and people who play here, but all kinds of local businesses and other courses have reached out and offered to do whatever they could to help.”

The Merkel family also owns Horicon Hills Golf Club in Horicon and The Golf Club at Camelot in Lomira.

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