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Editor gets wish with downtown golf tournament

Thursday, March 23, 2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: The historical content of this story is fictional. Those quoted made comments with full knowledge of the joke. The tournament, however, is real.

Historians will say that the first permanent golf course in North America was Canada's Royal Montreal Golf Club founded in 1873. But here in Cape Girardeau, archivists may have unearthed some shocking new evidence of a local course which significantly pre-dates that one.

"I was just dusting off the original 1808 map of Cape Girardeau's incorporation and I happened to turn it over and, well, I couldn't believe what I saw," said Cape Girardeau County archivist Jane Randol Jackson. "It was hard to tell, and some of it had been worn away over the years, but it looked like the outlines of a golf course with scores written neatly in the upper right-hand corner."

The names of the golfers, she said, were clearly legible: Meriwether Lewis and Louis J. Lorimier.

Lewis, it seems, beat Lorimier by six strokes that day according to the card kept by loyal caddy and record keeper Bartholomew Cousins.

Jackson believes Cousins wanted to preserve the 1803 scorecard, perhaps as a sly dig at his poor-putting boss, and used the same parchment five years later for the city plan.

"Lorimier did have hair that hung down to the ground," said Jackson. "So if he didn't tie it up, I imagine it would have gotten caught up in his golf swing."

The first hole of the course began at what is now the Common Pleas Courthouse, and the last hole finished at the Red House.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery: One of the holes appears to go straight through the Convention and Visitors Bureau building, which is rendered on the map much as it is today.

"Well of course they stopped at the CVB," said executive director Chuck Martin. "Lewis was new to town. Where else was he going to get brochures and maps about our fine city? And we were happy to provide them."

In light of these revelations local officials have decided to reenact this historic event. The result: the Louis J. Lorimier Memorial World's Greatest Downtown Golf Tournament to be held the afternoon of June 25.

The idea has been a long-time passion of Southeast Missourian editor Joe Sullivan. Years ago, perhaps being visited by the spirit of Lorimier, Sullivan began to dream of driving golf balls into the river.

"I'd get a sandwich at lunch and sit on one of those benches in front of the courthouse," said Sullivan. "And it occurred to me how much fun it would be to try to hit a golf ball into the river -- don't think you can do it now, it's probably about 500 yards away -- but it would be fun to try."

Sullivan began writing about this dream in his weekly column and developed quite a following of like-minded duffers who felt the urge to take on downtown.

"It can't be explained. Either you get it or you don't," said Sullivan. "It amounts to an inside joke for my readers."

One of the people whose imagination was caught is City Councilman Charlie Herbst. Herbst found a Web site advertising urban golf tournaments taking place in Europe. He liked the idea and thought it would work well in Cape Girardeau.

Details are still being determined. Participants will use foam golf balls, and holes will be urban structures like fire hydrants. A putt-putt area will be provided by the parks and recreation department for children. The entry fee is yet to be determined but will include a catfish buffet to be held at the Red House.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Red House foundation, which provides an endowment for future repairs to the building.

tjgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245


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