T.W.I.G. — farmland, sandtraps, FedEx/St. Jude’s and a Field of Dreams

“To Farm or Play Golf” — My traveling golf league headed to Green Hills Golf Course near Clyde for our weekly dose of fun and/or frustration. I’ve always liked the course and now that I get to play it from the senior tees, my opinion has not changed.

When I entered the clubhouse I noticed a portrait on the wall and it brought a smile to my face. Eleven years ago I wrote a column about the course. The land used to be a farm until Robert Crockett decided he was going to turn it into a golf course. There were a lot of doubters, including some family members, but his mind was made up and Green Hills was born.

To suggest that the move was successful would be a huge understatement. Three generations of Crocketts have manned the premises and I’m guessing a fourth will soon follow.

What’s interesting to me is the fact that the reverse seems to be happening today. There is a glut of golf courses in northwest Ohio and for some it’s tough to survive. In fact, I know of three different golf courses that have been torn up, crops planted where fairways used to be.

So if the question is to farm or play golf, well, you better not ask me what you should do. I know which activity is more important, but I can’t imagine not being able to play golf!

“What sand trap?” — About four holes into my round, a cart with a member of our gang in it approached and wanted to know what we were doing about the sand traps. Because some courses have traps that are not well maintained and on bad weather days might be full of water, we’ve been known to allow golfers to remove their ball from a trap and play it from the grass.

We do not assess a penalty stroke for this (hey, we are all playing by the same rules) and I’m sure it has nothing to do with our abilities to play the ball from the sand. We have now basically decided that whether you play out of the bunker or not is an individual decision. Yes, I know. It’s not much of a decision now, is it?

What would you say if I told you that the USGA is considering a rules change where golfers will have the option of removing a ball from a sand trap and playing it from the grass? It’s true. The rules change is under consideration, presumably to speed up play. There will be however, a substantial penalty for not playing it from the sand.

I guess my guys are just getting a head start on the premise.

“FedEx/St. Jude’s Classic” — The PGA Tour hits Memphis, Tennessee this week. The tournament does not always draw the biggest names in golf because it comes the week before the U.S. Open. Those who do play though realize the significance of the tournament.

The benefactor of this tournament is the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital founded years ago by entertainer Danny Thomas. This year is the 60th anniversary of the event and to date $35 million has been given to the hospital for research.

The players visit children who are facing serious medical issues during the weeklong event. I recently read about a story involving a touring pro and his visit. In 2009, Rich Beem went to the hospital and was, to say the least, overwhelmed. This is what he had to say.

“The kids were wishing ME luck. What are you supposed to do with that?”

What you do with that is shake your head in amazement. The perseverance and beauty of young people, particularly those with health issues is just that — amazing. You then go out and play golf, realizing that it’s not the most important thing that will take place that week!

“Field of Dreams” — Golf wasn’t my only sporting activity this week. I got an email from Ken Barth who lives in the Marietta area. I played baseball with Ken some 40 years ago on a team sponsored by the Tiffin Elks. He had been visited by Bob Gray — another teammate — and was asked to come see his baseball field.

So I joined Ken and Denny Lofay — yet another teammate — and we ventured to the ballpark where the Homestead Grays play ball. For those of you who recognize that name as a team from the old Negro Leagues, then you are indeed a baseball fan.

Bob has a business called Homestead Hardwoods and he coupled that with his last name to give his ball club a name. Yes he was aware of the symbolism. You see, anyone who has the audacity to build his own field of dreams is aware of baseball history.

If you have not had a chance to see this place, you must go. Complete with dugouts, lights and a big scoreboard in right field the only thing missing is a cornfield. Fans can sit on a grass hill behind home plate and watch the action.

Bob Gray will be 61 (a baseball number of significance) in a few days. He not only has his own team and own field — he still plays! On the day of our visit, he set up a pitching machine (of course he has one) and Ken decided to take some hacks.

I couldn’t stand just watching, so I too went up against a machine that was throwing pretty softly. I made some contact and wondered how Bob could possibly still suit up and play a game that has passed me by.

We had a great time reminiscing about the “old” days. It was fun, but one thought dominated the day for me. As for sports participation for yours truly: baseball — no; golf — yes!

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf columnist

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