Downtown golf: Best game anywhere

Friday, June 30, 2006

While we were waiting in the shade Sunday afternoon to hear instructions on how to play golf on downtown streets and in parks, several cheerful golfers made the same comment: This must be a dream come true.

Indeed it was. In just a few minutes, the First Annual Louis J. Lorimier Memorial World-Famous Downtown Golf Tournament and All-You-Can-Eat Catfish Buffet would begin.

That's a mouthful, and some of the folks who made the tournament possible started calling it the FALJLMWFDGT&AYCECB. Which, of course, cannot be said out loud and is harder to remember than the full-blown name.

But this was a tournament born in an e-mail and, over the past several weeks, organized mostly by e-mail exchanges. So the long acronym was appropriate.

More than 10 years ago, I was eating a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich while sitting on the park bench near the steep Courthouse Park steps in downtown Cape Girardeau. It occurred to me that it would be great fun to hit a golf ball from that vantage point to the Mississippi River. I don't know if such a shot is even possible. And it's far too dangerous to try.

But out of that daydream came a column proposing a downtown golf course. Over the following decade, I wrote many columns about the golf course, and it became a reality in the imaginations of those who like to dream. Fortunately, most readers of this column understood the joke about the nonexistent golf course and played along. A few continue to be baffled.

That's OK. As of last Sunday, there is nothing make-believe about the downtown golf course. It exists.

And it may quite possibly be the most fun golf course anywhere.

The downtown golf tournament officially came to a head when Charlie Herbst, a man of limitless energy who happens to be a city councilman, sent an e-mail suggesting we stop talking about the downtown golf course and actually have a tournament.

Great idea, I responded -- as long as Charlie understood I would have to rely on others to do the grunt work. He readily agreed to find volunteers to help. Off we went.

Immediately, folks like Jane Jackson, Carl Kinnison, Dan Muser, Don Greenwood and Chuck Martin picked up the load. Here at the Southeast Missourian, Mark Kneer, a consummate golfer, gave advice and provided carpet squares for golfers to use on hard downtown surfaces.

Midway through the planning, my wife and I learned she would be having surgery to replace both knees about a week and a half before the tournament. That's when Sam Blackwell stepped up and starting taking care of many details.

The only way I know to express my deep gratitude to all these people is to say it: Thank you.

And a special thanks to Tim Roth, who spent a day laying out a putt-putt hole through the Convention and Visitors Bureau using architectural artifacts from downtown Cape Girardeau. What a brilliant idea. And what fun (par 8, by the way).

Thanks to more than 80 participants, a dozen or so volunteers and various sponsors, the tournament raised about $2,000 for the Red House Interpretive Center. I think Louis Lorimier, the city's founder, would have been proud.

For a few hours on a brilliant Sunday afternoon, the downtown tournament managed to restore golf to what it should always be: a game.

Who could ask for anything more -- even a daydreaming newspaper editor?

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

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