A few weeks ago we had a contest, "I'm a Muni Kid." First off we would like to thank everyone who sent in an entry! The stories were all great! We ended up picking two winning stories, one from Jimmy Ingram and one from Nick Atwood. Today we will post Jimmy's story about growing up playing the game at Quail Ridge Golf Course in Baker City, OR. Enjoy!
I've spent over 3/4 of my life playing golf at Baker Municipal Golf Course (now Quail Ridge) and I owe the 28 years I've golfed to my late grandfather. In 1987 when i was 9 years old my grandpa's birthday gift to me was a piece of paper that said only "good for 5 golf lessons" with a scribbled signature at the bottom. At the time I had no idea what to make of it. All I knew of golf at age 9 was that my grandpa always dressed nice when he went to play: plaid pants, shiny brown leather shoes, and a collared shirt. He told me instead of buying me a toy or something I'd get tired of, he wanted to give me something I could have my whole life. I didn't get it then, but I do now.
About a week after my birthday my grandpa took me up for my first lesson. He'd cut and regripped some of his old clubs for me to play with. An old Ping persimmon driver, some Wilson blades (only 7, 9, and pw) a putter, and a raggedy old bag red leather golf bag with broken zippers. I don't remember much about those lessons. I knew it was fun to try and hit the ball as far as I could, which for a 9 year old playing blades didn't happen very often. I remember the local pro being patient and very encouraging despite my struggles. The rest of the summer my grandpa took me golfing with him a couple times a week. Most of the time it was just he and I, but occasionally I'd get to play with his buddies too. They'd laugh and carry on, complain about losing nickels and dimes to one another playing games I didn't understand. All of them were nice to me and acted happy to have me there. That was all that mattered to me.
Years went by and my grandfather's health began to deteriorate. He had a stroke which left the right half of his body paralyzed but he continued to golf despite it. I had gotten to know many of his friends and people who golfed at the course and always felt welcomed. When he couldn't play he'd drop me off and someone would always invite me to join their group. Eventually my grandpa's health forced him to quit playing but he'd still take me and follow me around the course while I played. As I got older he always inquired about how I played, who I played with, and whether or not I had fixed all my divots and ball marks. It was always a thrill for me to get to tell him about a birdie or two I'd made, a good iron shot I'd hit, or a funny story about something that had happened.
My grandpa has been gone over 15 years now. I still hear stories about him from some of the older guys on the course, which never gets old. I've played golf 28 years now in Baker. I've made countless friends, had wonderful times, shared laughs, hit good shots, bad shots, and watched a 9 hole muni course with burnt fairways and rough greens turn into a 18 hole municipal gem. The clothing has changed, the clubs have changed, and most of all I'VE changed. But the one thing that has stayed the same all these years is the family atmosphere that I grew up in on the course: where a foursome might have a 10 year old and an 80 year old. Where you can head up to the course by yourself and find a few friends hanging around and within 10 minutes you have a foursome on the first tee box. Where people can tell stories about three generations of golfers in one family. You don't find that everywhere.
I couldn't tell you one other gift I got for my 9th birthday all these years later, but I think about my grandpa and what he did for me every time I pick up a golf club. In a day and age with overwhelming amounts of materialism, nothing can replace the experiences you have spending time with family and friends doing something you enjoy...and golf will always be my favorite. There's thousands of golf courses out there, from Pinehurst to Pebble Beach, St Andrews to Bandon Dunes. But the one that'll always mean the most to me is the one I grew up on. The one that most people heading down Interstate 84 don't even know about. The one that I've shared so many memories with my grandfather, friends, and now my kids. It's a muni course, and deep down I'll always be a muni kid.