Todd Quitno’s connection to Fairways Golf Course can be traced back two generations to when his grandfather Elmer Hooley not only was a groundskeeper at the course, but had a hand in adding the back nine holes to the course many years ago.
Quitno’s grandmother Anne Hooley lived in a house near the sixth hole of the course. His mother Jane grew up in the same house, and when Quitno was younger he would ride his bicycle to the house, hop on the course (which was known as Rochelle Country Club at the time) and play 18 holes.
“Baseball was always the big focus in Rochelle when I grew up but my parents used to take me to the 9-hole course in Malta,” Quitno said. “That’s where I learned the game and the fundamentals and etiquette of golf. I was decent enough at it to where I wanted to join the Rochelle Country Club. That was heaven for me because I basically became a club rat. I spent as much time as I could on the golf course.”
Quitno’s family purchased memberships to the club when he was 11, and he frequently played the course with friends during the summer. He started working in the cart barn when he was 13 years old, and he played the course competitively when he entered high school and joined the Rochelle Township golf team.
Quitno graduated RTHS in 1991 and went to college at Ball State University after receiving a tip from his pro shop manager about the school’s architecture program. While at Ball State, he returned home on occasion and worked with the Rochelle Country Club grounds crew, learning how to mow greens, rake bunkers and perform other tasks necessary to keep the course in peak condition.
His experience came in handy when he earned his bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Ball State in 1996 and began his career as an intern with Lohmann Golf Designs in Marengo.
“When I worked in the cart barn my pro shop manager told me to check out Ball State University because they had a great architecture program and I was interested in both engineering and architecture,” Quitno said. “I found out while I was there that golf course architecture even existed, and I told myself that I could marry the two together and make a career out of it.”
Over two decades after earning his degree, Quitno remains with the same company he interned for, and this past month he was elevated to a partnership role as vice president of designs. The company’s name was also changed to Lohmann Quitno Golf Course Architects to reflect the change.
Quitno has been involved in over 150 renovation projects since beginning his career as a golf course architect, and the RTHS alum is currently working with Fairways Superintendent Mitch Hamilton to plan renovations for the course he grew up on as a kid.
“I saw Mitch at a Christmas party for the superintendent’s association he’s involved with up in Rockford,” Quitno said. “We were chatting about the golf course, and when we got to talking I told him about how I grew up on the golf course… It was such a huge part of my life, and now that I’m in the design business I’ve always wanted to come back and put together a long-term plan for improvements at the course.”
Quitno and Hamilton went through the course recently, creating a master plan and looking at areas where the course can be renovated down the line. Unlike most of Quitno’s projects, he’s giving his services to Fairways pro bono because of his history with the course and his desire to see the course he played constantly growing up given new life.
“I told him that, if he could get things orchestrated, I would come out and do it for free because I’ve always wanted to give back to the golf course and the Rochelle community,” Quitno said.
While Quitno couldn’t provide an exact timeline for when renovations will be complete, he said one of the main goals will be to recapture some of the corridors on the course that have been lost by overgrown trees. Many trees have already been removed due to the emerald ash borer, but work will continue to trim back and open the course up.
“It was tragic to lose so many trees, but in the 20 to 30 years since I started playing the course, it’s become really overgrown,” Quitno said. “That’s probably one of the things we’ll target first. We want to give the course a little more width.”
Other details provided by the master plan include reworking existing fairways, bunkers, tee boxes and greens as well as renovating cart paths and possibly relocating tee box No. 1 and green No. 15 for new short-game practice areas to complement the facility. Reworking the front of the property by creating new drive-in lanes for traffic and rearranging the pro shop with windows are also things Quitno outlined in the plan.
“I’ve always felt that the course turns its back to you because of how the buildings are facing the course,” Quitno said. “When you come to the course, you drive into the big, asphalt parking the lot and the buildings have their backs to you. I’d like to see them create a more welcoming atmosphere when people come in.”
Quitno has worked on many notable courses throughout his 22-year career including Marengo’s Blackstone Golf Club, but he said that Fairways, if fully renovated, would be one of the memorable and peak achievements of his career. His parents still reside in Rochelle, and he said he likes taking his three children (Finn, Carsen and Millie) to Fairways when his family is in town.
“It would be awesome to follow through with this plan,” Quitno said. “It’s a fairly modest plan… If we can do everything that’s on there, it would rank as one of my top projects ever because of my personal connection to the place.”