The following was reprinted from JSOnline.com, the Internet service of the Milwaukee Journal.Sentinel

By Gary D'Amato

Waukesha — The first thing Jim Frutchey did when he became the co-owner of Morningstar Golfers Club on May 3, 2005, was paint the exterior of the clubhouse.

Frutchey didn't like the old color, but there was more to it than that. He wanted a symbolic fresh start for the club after a tumultuous journey that was marred by a contentious squabble and legal wrangling among partners.

 
 
"If you're going to pursue your dreams, you're going to have to accept a few nightmares along the way," Frutchey said. "We've certainly had our ups and downs, some that I could control and some that I couldn't control.

"But I'm a pretty stubborn guy."

At long last, Frutchey owns Morningstar with partner Bill Patch, which is good news for the fine public course and the people who play it. Had this turned out any other way, it would have been a shame because

A VIEW OF THE COURSE FROM THE CLUBHOUSE.
 
 
Frutchey staked everything he owned in the place.

He nurtured Morningstar from the beginning, invested 13 years of his life in the project and somehow kept his faith - and his sanity - through all the acrimony and setbacks.

"Everything I've done in my career, sometimes in a convoluted way, has led me to sitting behind this desk at this time at this place," Frutchey said. "It's been a long haul, but it's like all journeys that end the right way.

"It's exactly like a round of golf. You get some things that don't work exactly right and you've got to fight through it. You're not going to win all the battles. In this game, you're going to lose most of them."

Built in an old sand and gravel quarry, Morningstar's dramatic elevation changes give it a character and visual appeal unique to Wisconsin golf. But since 1992, when Frutchey committed to the project and moved from Pensacola, Fla., where he was a successful PGA professional, there were problems.

A VIEW OF THE CLUBHOUSE FROM THE COURSE.

A book could be written on the dispute among the original partners (Frutchey was not among them) but the short story is that they could agree on next to nothing. Because the construction loan never was converted to permanent financing, Marshall Investments Corp. foreclosed in November 2003 and the course went into receivership in January 2004, just 2½ years after it opened. Morningstar was sold at sheriff's auction in September and Marshall Investments was the high bidder at $4.2 million. Marshall then sold the course back to Frutchey and Patch for an amount Frutchey declined to disclose. The sale was finalized May 3.

"I was happy as can be, obviously," Frutchey said. "But it was almost like, 'OK, it's over, what's next?' "

What's next is a makeover for Morningstar, starting with public perception.

"When it hit the paper, 'Morningstar foreclosed on,' everyone assumes bankruptcy," Frutchey said. "So now they assume the whole golf

FRUTCH AND THOMPSON

course has gone to crap. We're just fighting through that."

Designed by Rick Jacobson with help from Frutchey, Morningstar has 18 strong holes and million-dollar views. It's the kind of course you can play over and over and never get bored. As testament to its appeal, golfers played nearly 32,000 rounds last year despite the uncertainty over ownership.

The knock on the course when it opened in 2001 was that the conditions weren't commensurate with the layout. That was true then, but Morningstar is in good shape now and getting better all the time. The trick is to get the word out to the people who played that first year and haven't come back.

Frutchey has big plans for the course, including the addition of some two dozen bunkers and 10 to 12 new tees.

"Now I get to do a little bit of my Walter Mitty stuff," he said. "I think anybody who has ever been involved in golf in any way, shape or form has wanted to sit right where I'm sitting."
Frutchey admitted that he worried about his own future at times in recent years, wondering who would hire a "59-year-old warhorse Marine" if somebody else wound up owning Morningstar.

But he never considered walking away.

"From an emotional standpoint, every blade of grass, every hole, every bunker . . . there was so much potential to this and I was so emotionally involved, there was never a time when I wanted to quit," he said. "I was going to stick it out no matter what, and so was Bill Patch."

Frutchey wound up where he wanted to be all along, which can mean only one thing: Morningstar is in good hands.