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SOUTH OGDEN - Nancy Farrell didn't easily decide to close Golf City, where two generations of Ogden youngsters have learned to golf and perfect the swing of a bat.
She was in a Missouri hospital room on July 31, a Sunday evening. Her daughter, Jodi Farrell Gale, had given birth that afternoon to her sixth child, a boy, and it was time for the two women to finally sign the contract that had been in the works for months - an agreement to sell the 20 acres underlying Golf City Golf and Recreation Center to Ivory Homes.
Jodi signed and Nancy hesitated, paralyzed by the importance of the moment. Jodi insisted and Nancy, at last, put pen to paper.
"I felt really cornered," recalls Farrell, 64. "This is a huge step in my life and it's emotional."
It is, indeed, one of those times when one weighs the cost of change against its promise.
Golf City, after all, represents the best part of her life, the life she shared with her husband, Mike, before he was electrocuted with Jeff, their 16-year-old son, while moving an aluminum ladder at Golf City. It stands for the 22 years since the accident, when Nancy choked down her own sadness to carry on her husband's dream.
It's time now, says Jodi, for her mother to let go of the notion that a grandchild might someday want to run Golf City. Jodi and her husband, a family counseling manager for the LDS Church in the Midwest, may never move back to Ogden, and even if they did, would not want to saddle a child with such expectations.
The Farrell family's decision to sell to Ivory Homes, which plans an upscale 60-home subdivision where the 9-hole course, driving range, batting cage and miniature golf center now stand, rankles many Weber County residents who see Golf City as a community asset.
South Ogden Mayor George Garwood is perturbed that the Farrells conducted a silent auction, which drew 22 bidders, rather than negotiating with the city, which would have liked to buy Golf City. It could have eventually provided room for much-needed soccer and baseball fields, he says.
Garwood predicts intense public interest will lead to packed hearings when Ivory Homes proposes to rezone the 20 "green-space" acres to allow houses.
Nancy Farrell says she plans to keep in mind any opposition to the sale and rezone mean one thing: Her neighbors hold a soft spot for Golf City.
"This does not come without an emotional price . . . on a lot of different levels," she says. ''It is a big step and it will change the landscape of South Ogden. But it is the best decision for our family."
Love story: When Nancy Stanfield met Mike Farrell, they were juniors at Ogden High School. He was a promising young golfer who had been dreaming since eighth grade about building a driving range for Ogden.
That chance came when his parents bought a 20-acre parcel in the barren foothills south of Ogden just as Mike was finishing a master's degree in business at Arizona State University.
The young couple had been toying with the idea of staying in Arizona. Instead, they came home. It took Mike, his dad, his brother and his uncle to build Golf City, which opened Aug. 10, 1963, with just a driving range at first.
"People said, 'It's great you're going to build your dream, but why out in the boonies?' It was a field of weeds," Nancy recalls, marveling over the hundreds of trees now on the course and the nearby hills filled with homes and strip malls.
The couple toured Idaho and California, stopping at every miniature-golf course so Mike could interview the owners about what worked and what didn't. Nancy took notes in shorthand. When they built Golf City's miniature course, along the theme of traveling the world, it was the first north of Salt Lake City.
"We put our heart and soul into it," Nancy recalls. The miniature White House, for instance, has the exact same number of windows as the real White House.
Over time, Mike and Nancy bought the land from his parents.
Then, on June 14, 1983, Mike, 41, was changing the overhead lights on the driving range when the ladder touched a live wire. Jeff, a varsity basketball player at Bonneville High, tried to pull his dad from the charged ladder. He, too, was electrocuted.
Their deaths rocked Ogden. Jodi, then 14, was Nancy's only solace.
Mike's family kept Golf City running while the numb widow assumed the presidency of the company.
"There were many dark days when I couldn't stand going there, when I thought it deserved to be burned to the ground."
After a couple of years, Nancy assumed responsibilities that had always been Mike's, such as filing quarterly taxes. But she never really filled his shoes. She never repaired sprinklers, for instance. "I had to hire three people to replace Mike."
Farrell "Fez" DeHart, Mike's cousin, came to work full time, and when Nancy bought other family members' stock in Golf City over the years, DeHart kept his. Nancy and Jodi, however, are the sole owners of the land, which is all that Ivory Homes is buying.
DeHart and two partners, Kirk Abegglen and Kelly McFarland, have been leasing and operating Golf City for the past five years since Nancy's retirement.
They would like to buy the business, but can't compete with the prices developers are willing to pay for the land. Golf City is scheduled to close in November.
"It's very hard," says DeHart, who remembers lining up with other family members as a teenager to rake grass seed for the new golf course.
A free market supposes that land will be put to its highest and best use, he notes, wistfully. "We figure this is the best use," he says, gesturing to the golf course. "It really has served the community."
Letting go: Nancy says she and Jodi would have loved to sell to the three men, but it's true, they don't have the capital.
And Golf City has made her comfortable, not wealthy. "I have six grandkids to send on missions and to college," says Nancy.
Jodi thinks of the sale as a tribute to her father's ability to continue providing financially for his family, even in death.
The two women like the idea of Golf City closing when it's still important to people. "We want to go out on top," says Jodi, who remembers sleeping out next to every miniature golf hole with her girlfriends as a teenager.
The Ivory Homes offer bowled over the women when they sorted through the 22 bids submitted in the silent auction last spring, and it wasn't the price, Nancy says.
It was Ivory's plan to put no commercial businesses or high-density housing on the land, but to keep as many trees as possible. There will be walking trails, a swimming pool and lawns maintained by a homeowners association.
The subdivision, preliminarily called Tuscan Estates at Golf City, was exactly what Nancy wanted. "We knew. we just knew." She plans to build her home by what is now the fifth tee.
Nancy says both parties agreed not to divulge the price that will be paid once the land is rezoned and the deal closes. She says she rejected a $2 million offer in the late 1990s because she wasn't ready to sell.
Though she plans to live in the new development, she doesn't want to watch the demolition of the clubhouse.
"I can't be in Ogden that day."
Carol Hannan, a long-time customer at Golf City, says the new subdivision may be gorgeous, but she dreads having homes replace the greens. "I'm very, very sad. Everything is turning into a housing development."
The Rev. Charles Cummins, a Catholic priest and long-time friend of the Farrells, suggests circumspection.
"Time moves on," says Cummins. "Unless you're a Native American, you can't really complain about houses coming in."
"Mike lived out his dreams," says Cummins, who spoke at the Farrell funeral 22 years ago. "Nancy's got a right to live out her dreams."