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Bentleyville Scout scores Eagle with mini golf project

Mary Pickels
| Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, 1:32 p.m.
Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve director Angela Belli and Boy Scouts Robbie Michalow and Nick Chapman try their putting skills on the new natural miniature golf course built as Michalow’s Eagle Scout project at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St. Vincent College.
Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve director Angela Belli and Boy Scouts Robbie Michalow and Nick Chapman try their putting skills on the new natural miniature golf course built as Michalow’s Eagle Scout project at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St. Vincent College.

After 10 years of Scouting, Robbie Michalow points to the camaraderie he shares with his troop members as a strong incentive to stay involved.

“My friends are what kept me in Scouting. And I enjoy the camping part of it,” he said.

Michalow, 15, is a resident of Bentleyville. He recently completed a miniature golf course at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St. Vincent College as part of his Eagle Scout requirement.

He achieved his goal on Dec. 7.

Michalow, with some assistance from fellow Scouts, logged 145 hours designing the three-hole, par-8 course, acquiring donations and completing construction at the Unity site.

“It was very time-consuming. I started it in January and finished it in September. I did most of the work during the summer,” he said.

A member of Boy Scout Troop 1419, the Bentworth High School sophomore is a member of Ave Maria Parish in Bentleyville. He also is on his school soccer team and plays hockey with the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League. He also has served as a summer camp counselor at Heritage Boy Scout Camp in Farmington.

He is the son of Dr. Robert Michalow, an assistant professor of education at St. Vincent, and Megan Michalow.

Michalow is Scoutmaster of his son's troop.

The project was suggested by his colleague, St. Vincent environmental science program instructor and Nature Reserve director Angela Belli.

Eagle Scouts had completed several previous projects at the reserve, Belli said, including a labyrinth.

“Because of our relationship with Mr. Palmer, I thought it would be really fun to do a putt-putt course,” she said.

The 50-acre nature reserve is a public recreation area including walking trails, native plantings, outdoor student laboratories and school field trip programs.

It was inspired by golfing legend and Latrobe native Arnold Palmer's late wife, Winnie Palmer. She served on the board of directors for St. Vincent College for years and dreamed of preserving the land that she loved. After her death, family and friends raised funds to preserve an unobstructed, undeveloped view of the college.

“It was just an idea in my head. I thought someone has got to be creative and come up with a layout,” Belli said.

“I thought it would be a neat thing to do. I drew it by hand,” Robbie Michalow said.

Troop member Nick Chapman assisted with the construction, and Weinzen Farm cut and donated the timbers.

Part of the nature reserve and Boy Scout philosophies was that no live wood be cut, Robert Michalow said.

“We had to gather the wood,” he said.

The clubs were fashioned out of driftwood by the reserve's work-study student, Belli said.

Robbie Michalow said he did not have a lot of experience in woodwork or construction prior to beginning the project.

“We live on a 6-acre farm in Bentleyville. There is a lot of hands-on work, fixing things that break,” Robert Michalow said.

The course is an addition to the Nature Explore Classroom Certification as part of its action area, Belli said.

The outdoor classroom encourages nature play for children, she said, with guiding principles including free movement, water and dirt digging.

“It's suitable for ages 3 to 7. This is a great addition,” Belli said of the mini golf course. Asked what was the most enjoyable aspect of planning and installing the miniature golf course, Robbie Michalow laughed and said, “Getting it done.”

He's already seen the fruits of his labor. “One of my favorite things was getting to see little kids playing on it,” he said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or

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