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A little golf course with an uncertain future has helped give new life to a York County golf pro with an illness-plagued past.

In many ways, Little Creek Golf Course and Fred Shultz appear to be a perfect — if unlikely — match.

Last year, Little Creek was purchased by Jackson Township for $850,000. At the time, the plan was to eventually convert the Spring Grove-area executive course into a community recreational park.

In the short term, the township continued to operate the property as a golf course until the transition to a park could be completed.

Over the past year, however, things have changed. There appears to be growing momentum, especially within the York County golf community, to keep the property as a golf business.

Shultz is one of the driving forces behind that movement.

That's remarkable when you consider that less than a year ago Shultz struggled just to get out of bed after suffering two strokes in September.

For four decades, Shultz has been a familiar figure to golfers in the York area. He's worked at courses such as Briarwood, Heritage Hills, Cool Creek and Honey Run, as well as Dick's Sporting Goods in Hanover. When he suffered his strokes, he had a gig at South Hills.

After his strokes, however, golf wasn't No. 1 on his priority list. He was much more concerned with tasks that most of us take for granted, such as walking.

"I could barely get in and out of bed," Shultz said. "It was my left leg, mostly. I spent seven weeks at Apple Hill. I couldn't even walk with a cane."

Slowly, however, Shultz began to recover. He got loads of help from his devoted wife, Ellen, and some dedicated doctors and nurses. From December through May he estimates he had 150 medical appointments.

"Every day, I feel like I'm getting better," Shultz said. "I'm not ready to play golf yet, but I'm getting a lot of therapy. My balance isn't really good and my strength on my left side isn't great."

His recovery hasn't been all smooth sailing. He's had some setbacks along the way. He fell and broke his left shoulder and recently fell again and cracked some ribs. Despite those issues, he still believes he has some good golf left in him.

"I think I'm going to get all the way back," he said. "I'm 65 and I might've played some of my best golf in my early 60s, and I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't get back to where I was. I enjoy competing."

That's a stunningly upbeat attitude, considering what he's been through in the past 12 months.

Opening up shop: Shultz is convinced that his recovery has been helped by a new role at Little Creek, an 18-hole, par-59 track that covers just 3,100 yards.

In the spring, Shultz was asked to attend a meeting where the future of Little Creek would be discussed. The Jackson Township resident went happily, because the longtime York County institution holds a special place in Shultz's heart.

Not long after the meeting, Shultz took a major step to show his support for Little Creek. On June 1, he opened his own pro shop at the course, where he sells and repairs clubs. He's also hoping to get back into teaching on a more consistent basis.

"I've been buying and selling golf equipment for 40 years," he said. "I enjoy it, and feel like I'm pretty good at it. Now I'm going to make the profit and won't be making the profit for someone else."

Promoting the course: In his new role, Shultz is doing everything he can to promote Little Creek in the hopes that it will remain a golf course.

"Little Creek is a sensational place," he said. "Anyone who has learned to play golf in York County has probably played there because it's an easy place to play and learn."

Shultz said when he was a pro at Briarwood, he would often send beginning golfers to Little Creek to hone their novice skills. He's a firm believer that Little Creek serves a useful purpose and can remain a successful venture for the township.

"I'm excited about the place," he said. "It's really cool. There's lots of kids, senior citizens, women. They love the place. There's also a bunch of retirees who are working there who are excited about making the course better than it was. They're very proud of what they're doing. People are telling us how much better the course is."

Shultz also praised the food in the snack bar, including "the best cheeseburger in York," and also asserted that the course is doing better financially.

Looking to the future: Will those positives be enough to keep the course open for the foreseeable future? That's up to the township supervisors.

There's a strong argument that a community park would serve more township residents than a golf course. Many also feel that a government entity shouldn't be involved in running a business that competes with other private enterprises.

Still, there's no doubt that many York County golfers would love to see Little Creek remain open for business. The little course just a couple miles from the Glatfelter smoke stacks holds fond memories for many area hackers, who took their first competitive swings there as kids.

Fred Shultz knows that better than anyone, and he's doing everything in his power to keep Little Creek's doors open.

Little Creek, meanwhile, is giving back just as much to Shultz as he continues his road to recovery.

For now, it's a perfect match.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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