Prairie View Golf Club was the vision of developer Jim Ackerman in 1994. It was his pride and joy. Together with his son-in-law Brian Nicholoff, and famed golf course designer Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Ackerman transformed more than 200 acres of Hamilton County farmland along the White River into a golf destination that won praise from Golf.com, Golf Digest, and GolfWeek Magazine, the latter giving Prairie View the #1 spot on its “Best Golf Courses You Can Play in Indiana” list in 2009.
But despite having one of the finest golf facilities in the state, the Ackerman family felt it was time to move on. Nicholoff left the operation in 2009. And with Jim Ackerman getting on in years, the decision was made to put the course up for sale in January of this year. It was a sad coincidence that the 88-year-old Ackerman passed away two months later on March 2nd.
Enter Doc O’Neal and Gary Aletto. Besides being friends for some 15 years dating back to their days in the Carmel Dad’s Club, O’Neal and Aletto were also long-time friends of the Ackerman family. O’Neal’s golf background is impressive to say the least: Carmel High School state champion in 1971 and ’72, Crooked Stick Golf Club champion in 1982 and ’88, past president of Crooked Stick, developer of The Bridgewater Club, and for the last five years, a partner in Cohoat & O’Neal Management – a company that owns and operates Wood Wind Golf Club in Westfield and manages The Golf Preserve in Frankfort. Gary Aletto, a Carmel resident and entrepreneur, is also an avid golfer and member at Crooked Stick.
All of this made for a smooth and natural transition as (Matt) Cohoat & O’Neal and Aletto (as an investor) offered to buy Prairie View. O’Neal says the Ackerman family did everything within their power to facilitate the purchase, hoping to keep ownership local and with a company they knew would maintain the quality. “The course and the facility are second to none,” said O’Neal. Yet he still saw room for improvement. “Our first focus has been the golf course. Not that it was bad, because it wasn’t. But it wasn’t up to a standard that we wanted.”
Since acquiring the course in late May, they have concentrated on improving the condition of the greens, improving the speed of the greens, cleaning up the bunkers, and sprucing up the way the course is detailed. Other aspects of the club that O’Neal wants to make sure are still a part of the Prairie View package are things that happen even before the golfer gets to the first tee. “The welcoming, the friendliness, and the smiles of the staff,” said O’Neal. All add to the golf experience at Prairie View. Future plans also include integrating Prairie View’s golf academy more into the club, with instruction, club fitting and repair, and clinics.
Prairie View is Gary Aletto’s first foray into golf course ownership. Although still a member at Crooked Stick, Aletto says he has played a “fair amount” at Prairie View and looks forward to his involvement in the new venture. He calls Prairie View “an outstanding public golf course.”