Faithful volunteers uplift Riverlands Golf & Country Club

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, June 21, 2023

 

LAPLACE — After the devastation of Hurricane Ida, it was nothing short of a miracle to watch Jimmy Hymel and Mark Smith put Riverlands Golf and Country Club back together.

The retired men showed their incredible grit and work ethic while hauling trees and coordinating with contractors to clear debris from the course. Their efforts have played a major role in the revival of Riverlands in recent years, according to Board Secretary Stephen Flynn.

“Jimmy and his wife, Janet, have been fixtures at the club for 60 years. Janet ran the social program for decades, and Mr. Jimmy pitches in wherever he can. This man has put his life, blood, sweat and tears into this place for the last 60 years. He’s been president multiple times and has served on the board for decades. He always volunteers when a cook is needed for an event,” Flynn said. “They are in their 80s and very giving of their time, money and talents. So is Mark Smith. In the past five years, Mark has really turned this place around. We were close to having to shut the doors, and he brought is back to financial solvency.”

Flynn said donating money for improvements to Riverlands’ bar was the least he could do to honor the dedication of the volunteers who keep the club alive. His son, Sean Flynn, designed an improved bar and restaurant area that was appropriately named “Jimmy’s Place.”

Hymel was brought to tears when he surveyed the damage after Hurricane Ida. Eighteen months later, the tears flowed again when he was surprised by the grand opening of Jimmy’s Place on St. Patrick’s Day 2023.

“I started crying like a baby when I found out because it surprised me. I’ve been involved for 50 years on the board…It’s like my home,” Hymel said. “My kids and grandkids grew up here. The people here are part of my life.”

Hymel also credits Smith, the retiring Board president, for the turnaround Riverlands has seen in recent years.

“With changing everything around, we are getting more people coming into the club from everywhere, across the river, from Destrehan. Membership is doing really well. We do the best we can to make it as nice as we can, and we’ve still got a long way to go,” Hymel said.

According to Flynn, Jimmy’s Place is only part of the facility-wide renovations that have taken place since the storm. The clubhouse has been transformed with more TVs, a new surround sound system, and a newly paved patio surrounding the building. A barbecue area was added outside. Outdoor renovations also involve improvements to the pool area, including a refinished pool deck for swim meets and retiling around the kiddie pool.

“We have more members than we’ve had in decades, coming from all walks of life,” Flynn said. “This place is packed all the time with golfers. It’s affordable. It’s less now than it was 20 years ago. We run out of carts every Saturday and Sunday.”

Flynn said membership is not necessary to enjoy a burger, wings, or other bar food at Jimmy’s Place, which is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday. Golf is also open to the public, with tee times starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Pool memberships are available for families for $325 from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

“Even though it’s called Riverlands Country Club, we are more of a community club now,” Flynn said, noting the organization has also been supportive of golf tournament fundraisers for schools and for local children with medical expenses.

The improvements are still ongoing, with a phase two overhaul planned for the kitchen.

Riverlands Golf and Country Club is located at 500 Fairway Drive in LaPlace. For more information, call 985-652-6316.