A lot has changed in 30 years, but one thing remains constant at Chartwell Country Club. It is still one of the very best private clubs in the Mid-Atlantic area bolstered by a very friendly atmosphere.
The golf membership fee has risen from $250 in 1961 to about $12,500 these days, but the congeniality among members and guests never has wavered. In fact, that "at-home" atmosphere seems to have risen.
This weekend they are conducting a gala 30th anniversary celebration at Chartwell Country Club, and please, excuse the members if theypop their buttons and beat on their chests. They've scored a hole-in-one for 30 years.
Some 16 charter members, including the club's first president, Bill Dixon, will hit the links Monday in the highlight of their homecoming at Chartwell.
"We are very proud at Chartwell that we still have 30 active charter members and since day one, we have never discriminated against anyone," said John Irvine, presidentof Chartwell and veteran golf coach at Chesapeake High.
"Many private clubs across the country don't accept women and minorities, but that's not so at Chartwell. We have mainly professional people, but at the same time it's a family-oriented club, and even educators such as myself are welcome there."
Irvine, a physical education teacherat Chesapeake where he has been the only golf coach the Cougars havehad (15 years), started at Chartwell 20 years ago as a part-time bartender. He worked his way up to bar manager and finally joined the club.
"Everybody there is so friendly, and they used to agitate me about joining the club. So, 18 years ago I did," said Irvine. "Some clubs look down on educators, but not Chartwell."
Under the 21-year leadership of golf pro George Jakovics, who unfortunately resigned this Tuesday to pursue another project, the club has grown to 650 members.
The golf membership is full, but openings exist in the tennis and swimming programs the club offers. It's all part of the family theme at Chartwell, and Irvine is a good example of what the club is all about.
As a physical education instructor for 21 years in the county school system, Irvine doesn't fit the stereotypical country clubimage of the pompous corporate exec rolling in the big bucks.
He is so well thought of that he has been elected president an unprecedented two successive years. In the past, those elected only held the office for one year, but with the anniversary celebration coming up, the members saw fit to keep Irvine in place.
Irvine is excited about this big weekend and the chance to welcome back the charter membersof 30 years ago, but disappointed that none of the three pros the club has had will be on hand to join in the celebration.
Steve Tobash was the first Chartwell pro 30 years ago and was followed by Dick Slickner and Jakovics, who took over in 1970. Tobash had open heart surgery recently and won't be able to make it while Slickner died of a heart attack at the age of 76 about 10 days ago.
Jakovics has decided that it would be in the best interests of the club if he didn't attend, although some members are hoping he changes his mind and stopsby.
Nonetheless, the party goes on with 28-year-old Joe Wilkinsonas the acting pro. Wilkinson, an All-County baseball and soccer player at Meade High who after graduating in 1981 played the two sports at Anne Arundel Community College, has been an assistant pro at Chartwell for the past seven years.
While in high school, Wilkinson, a self-taught golfer, began working on the links at the Laurel Pines Country Club in 1980.
"I taught myself to play, and I'm left-handed,"said Wilkinson, now a teaching pro. "After a few years at Laurel Pines I decided this is what I wanted to do.
"And when an assistant position opened up at Chartwell, I applied for it and George (Jakovics) hired me. I love it here."
Wilkinson said he is really looking forward to this big weekend but knows it's going to be a busy one.
The celebration started with cocktails and dinner Friday night, yesterday's Ernie Swanson Oldsmobile Scramble, today's mixed couples tournament and tomorrow's old-timers tournament of 16 charter members.
Four foursomes will be out on the well-manicured Chartwell links tomorrow morning, and the guys will be playing to win just as they did that very first day back in 1961.
"Oh yeah, we still take it seriouswhen we get out there to play," said Howard Wheeler, a semi-retired architect from Severna Park who now resides in Florida. "This is a great weekend, and it's great to see everybody come back. It's kind of like old home week.
"It's always been a very sociable group and obviously that has continued through the years."
Wheeler, sometimes called "Wheels," will team up with Jim Wilson, former president Dixonand Tom Baldwin. That foursome with Wilson, a former two-time club champion, is the prohibitive favorite.