Urban golf, like Cape's downtown tournament June 28, a growing sport

Sunday, June 7, 2009
Cleve Holiman stroked a Birdieball to the eighth hole at Common Pleas Courthouse Park as Chase Silvers watched during the First-Ever Third Annual Louis J. Lorimier Memorial Wold-Famous Downtown Golf Tournament and All-You-Can-Eat Catfish Buffet. This year's downtown golf tournament will be June 28. (Fred Lynch)

Normally golf is played on a golf course. Eighteen holes, long walks and a ride in a golf cart can make an afternoon fly by. But once a year for the past four years, golf hasn't been relegated to the course -- it has been in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Born from a joke but now a real event, the First-Ever Fourth Annual Louis J. Lorimier Memorial World-Famous Downtown Golf Tournament and All-You-Can-Eat Catfish Buffet, will be June 28.

Charlie Herbst, Cape Girardeau city councilman, is the chairman of the committee that puts the event together. He also plays in the tournament each year. He had heard jokes from Joe Sullivan, the Southeast Missourian editorial page editor, about creating a "mystical golf course" in downtown Cape Girardeau.

Herbst said four years ago he took Sullivan to lunch and called his bluff. That's when the idea was brought to fruition and a nine-hole golf course was established downtown.

Last year a second course was added on the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus. Each course has nine holes. The downtown Cape Girardeau course runs from Water to Lorimier streets and several blocks north and south, encompassing many historical buildings along the way.

It starts at the Red House Interpretive Center, which the not-for-profit the tournament benefits. Although the Red House is not in need of repairs, the money raised from the event will be banked until repairs are needed. The downtown tour moves on to places like the old Convention and Visitors Bureau building, behind C.P. McGinty's Jewelers and down Water Street. At the end of the course there is a shuttle to take the players to the Common Pleas Courthouse gazebo for the all-you-can-eat catfish buffet put on by Port Cape.

The River Campus course is flat and the holes intertwine. This is perfect, Herbst said, to watch other people play.

Although this is the fourth year the tournament has been held in Cape Girardeau, it's part of a growing national trend, termed "urban golf." Herbst said it is rapidly growing in Europe.

The game rules are more like safety guidelines. Instead of obstacles like bunkers, there are buildings, cars, houses and people. Normal golf balls are typically not used in order to minimize damage. To go with the growing trend, there are now several types of fake golf ball manufacturers around the country that create golf balls just for this sport.

The downtown tournament uses something called Birdieballs, Herbst said. Even though they are using balls, the course has been designed to keep away from things like plateglass windows and other breakable items that can shatter under pressure.

The players in the tournament -- and their skill levels -- vary.

"We've had a couple firemen before," Herbst said. City workers, regular golfers and people who have never touched a golf club in their life have also played. "Some people are just curious."

For the $25, each player gets a T-shirt and admission to the buffet. For more information, check out the registration forms in the Southeast Missourian or contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau at 335-1631.

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