Family legacy of caring for golf course at North Shore Country Club in Glenview

Juan Villarreal, 68 has raked every sand trap, cut every grass blade for past 49 years

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Golf club foreman celebrates nearly 50 years tending to the greens
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A 68-year-old crew foreman at the North Shore Country Club in Glenview is celebrating his 49th year of tending to the greens, and he's not done yet.

GLENVIEW, Ill. (WLS) -- At 68 years old, Juan Villareal is not afraid of work, especially this work. He's been raking every sand trap, cutting every blade of grass and caring for virtually every inch of the 195-acre North Shore Country Club's golf course for his entire adult life.

"I had so many opportunities; friends want me to go into a different line of work. I always say, 'no. I like what I do. I like this,'" Villareal said.

Villareal is following in his father's footsteps.

Art Villareal moved to the U.S. from Mexico, and started at the club in 1967. Other family members have also worked on the crew there, but none as long as Juan, who will celebrate 50 years there next summer.

That's one year longer than Dan Dinelli, director of agronomy, whose father also worked there. The two are like brothers. In fact the entire crew is like one big family.

"It's a life, kind of special, unique, different," Dinelli said.

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The two have planted almost every tree and shrub on the course. It's hard work.

In the summer, it's a seven-day-a-week job, starting every day at 5:30 a.m.

Days off are rare.

Juan only spoke Spanish when he came to the U.S. from Mexico. Now he is the foreman directing a crew of about 25, who keep the course in top shape, but that only means he puts in more hours.

"Juan's very difficult to keep up with, even today, lots of energy," Dinelli said.

Eventually he realizes he will retire. The family's legacy will end with him. But he's in no hurry to ride off into the sunset.

"I don't know what I would do without doing this - I would feel empty," Villarreal said.

Part of Juan's family's legacy at the club is his father's tractor, which is parked in front of the clubhouse. Juan said he's unsure what he may leave behind when he goes, but, then again, he's not planning on leaving anytime soon.