Canal Shores

Canal Shores Teams Up With Kemper Sports

By Matt Ginella

For all the people from Chicago, who, upon hearing the name Canal Shores are inspired to say, “I grew up playing there,” the 103-year-old iconic fixture and fun zone that’s wedged between Evanston and Wilmette, and 10 miles north of Wrigley Field, is finally getting some much-needed resources and support.

After years of a passionate band of locals making every attempt to restore the bones, implore more investment and explore every option or opportunity for a resurrection, along comes Kemper Sports. The Chicago-based management company, which is affiliated with Bandon Dunes, Streamsong, Sand Valley, Big Cedar Lodge and another 100 courses nationwide, Kemper has sunk its teeth, resources and relationships into making the Tom Bendelow original design relevant again. 

On 82 acres, and multiple mini parcels of land, the 3,900-yard 18-hole par 60 has been overgrown, downtrodden and, some might say, underperforming for quite some time. What is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, that’s leased to the towns of Evanston and Wilmette, and leased again to the Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association, will now be managed by Kemper Sports. Green fees range between $15 and $30 dollars. It’s a Youth on Course facility, so junior members of YOC can play for $5. The non-profit, which has relied heavily on donations and creative fundraising, finally has an optimistic plan for some realistic and relative success.

In this podcast, you’ll be hearing from Josh Lesnik, President of Kemper Sports and the original General Manager of Bandon Dunes. Lesnik grew up in the town of Winnetka, which is 15 minutes from Canal Shores. 

You’ll hear from Karl Leinberger, President of Evanston and Wilmette Golf Course Association, which is currently managing the non-profit as a group of committed volunteers.

And throughout this story, I get background and perspective from Andrew Fleming, a great friend of mine who’s a former lawyer at the Golf Channel and a former employee at Kemper Sports. Fleming graduated from Northwestern, which is around the corner from Canal Shores.

Charm, community, accessibility, a hyper-focus on impacting kids by way of caddie programs, as Lesnik says, “It’s all there.” And now it’s time to make it all happen. 

1 thought on “Canal Shores Teams Up With Kemper Sports”

  1. Please don’t forget your senior players who rely so heavily on the course for much need exercise and socialization. Why isn’t there a senior membership rate as well as a junior rate?

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