What history can teach us about golf

Friday, June 9, 2006

History is only worth what you make of it.

I'd like to think that's a famous quote. But as far as I can tell, I'm the only one who has ever said it.

Almost every week I read about another history-related book that's been published setting the record straight or adding elements that weren't even considered relevant when previous books on the same topic were published.

In other words, historians present history the way that conforms best to their own views.

That's my opinion. That's not what many historians would call gospel. But that's their problem, not mine.

What I have sensed, as I grow more and more age advantaged, is that I'm becoming quite a historian myself. And I am particularly true to the thesis that history is only worth what you make of it.

Consider this:

When Merriwether Lewis and what's-his-name Clark (as a historian, I leave details to fact fanatics) came to Cape Girardeau in ought-three -- 1803, that is -- they chummed around with the locals, ate Louis Lorimier's food, drank most of his whiskey, lost a pile of money on a horse race and then left, headed for the Oregon coast, promising to bring back a few myrtlewood trinkets for family and friends.

They never came back to Cape Girardeau.

When Evangaline Booth, daughter of Salvation Army founder William Booth and later U.S. general of the organization, came to our fair River City, she ministered to the needy, won souls for the Lord and then left.

She never came back.

When Billy Sunday came to Cape Girardeau to convert the masses on the road to perdition with his tent revival, he called on the wrath of an angry God to smite the hearts of likkered-up gamblers and cheats and, having temporarily barricaded Hell's path, left town.

He never came back.

When John Philip Sousa marched into town with his big brass band, he didn't even peek at the pool halls. His heart and soul were set on tapping toes and martial tunes that could be whistled for years to come. Then he left town.

He never came back.

If you haven't figured it out yet, there's a theme here.

Look at all the luminaries who have graced our gentle burg with their presence only to bask in our charm and hospitality for a short while before leaving for good.

Based on rarely seen -- if ever at all -- historical documents that surely exist somewhere, I can only conclude there is a single reason why folks who will later find a permanent home in the index of historical tomes choose not to return to the hospitality of a tale-telling river city where roses and dubious history grow in equal abundance.

It's simple, really.

No downtown golf course.

I know you think I'm just making that up. But take a look at some of those yellowed comment cards visitors leave behind at hotels and restaurants. Time after time they include statements like "Loved your pulled-pork sandwiches with slaw, but where's the downtown golf course?" or "Best kettle beef and kettle popcorn ever, but I'll spend my hard-earned dollars on a town with a proper downtown golf course!"

That's why the Louis J. Lorimier Memorial World-Famous Downtown Golf Tournament and All-You-Can-Eat Catfish Buffet (a benefit for the Red House Interpretive Center) on June 25 is so important to the future of the city.

We want our visitors to come back, right?

The registration deadline for the tournament (see the form in Sunday's Sports section) is exactly one week from today. Don't say I didn't warn you.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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