Golf: 14-year-old’s drive is to open Lester Park

Christian Houser started petition in hopes of getting city to reconsider closure.

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Christian Houser, 14, created a petition to try to keep Lester Park Golf Course up and running. Houser plans to reach out to Mayor Emily Larson once he's gathered enough signatures. His world government teacher agreed to give him extra credit for his hard work on the petition and for getting local government involved. (Tyler Schank /

Shortly after Shawn Houser read the news that Lester Park Golf Course will not open this season due to a budget shortfall, the rest of the family gathered around at the kitchen table in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood.

Christian Houser, 14, was bummed because Lester Park is his favorite place to hang out in the summer, so his mother, Erin, told Christian the story of his sister, Aziza, back when the family lived in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Officials were going to shut down the city pool in the summer, and Aziza wrote a handwritten petition for her fifth-grade class which was later sent to the city council. Aziza got a call from a city councilman who said he was very impressed and would do all he could to make sure the pool stayed open, and it did.

Christian Houser drew inspiration from the story, and with an assist from dad, Christian put a petition on on Tuesday asking Duluth Mayor Emily Larson to open Lester Park Golf Course. Through social media, one thing led to another and a little before 6 p.m. Friday, the petition had more than 1,000 signatures. Now he would like to submit it to the mayor.

“I was really surprised,” Christian Houser said. “I thought I was going to get a hundred to two hundred, and then it just blew up.


“I’d like to thank everyone who signed it.”

While Houser might not fully understand all the financial issues facing the beleaguered course, he does know what the course means to him.

“I would like to keep Lester Park Golf Course open because my friends and I ride our bikes there and golf almost every day,” his petition states.

“I kind of gave him the basics of why they closed it, that tax money coming into Duluth is shut down and tough decisions are being made,” Shawn Houser said. “I gave him a little bit about that and he kind of came up with the spiel that he wrote. I posted it on Facebook, and my wife posted it on, and other people started picking it up.”

Shawn and Erin Houser are well aware of the dire financial straits the course and city are in, and the city is well aware emotions are high right now. The course first opened in 1932 and has a loyal following, especially in that part of the city.

Mayor Larson said keeping the course closed will save the city an estimated $150,000 during a budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic. City officials declined to comment further on the Lester Park issue or the petition.

Erin Houser wondered if there was some way to have the course open, even on a limited basis, and talked about the potential for volunteering, like she does at Chester Bowl. Shawn Houser, a former collegiate golfer at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, was worried about the course’s upkeep.

“I don’t see why this has to be the end of the road,” Erin Houser said.


“It shouldn’t be,” Christian Houser said.

The city plans to reopen the course in 2021.

Christian Houser, an eighth-grader at Ordean East Middle School, was out at Lester Park Golf Course on Friday for the first time this year to be photographed for this story. Normally, come summer, he’s out here nearly every day, either playing with friends or his dad.

“It keeps me active,” he said.

Just before coming out to Lester on Friday, Houser had a request for his government and world studies class teacher.

“I asked her if I could get a little extra credit (for his petition), but she hasn’t responded yet,” Houser said, drawing a laugh.

“It was just a shot in the dark,” Erin Houser added.

When Christian Houser returned home, his teacher did respond.


That shot in the dark turned out to be an ace: extra credit.

Jon Nowacki is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune
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