By Clair Goodwin
Robert Cooper has seen it all at Briarbrook.
A charter member of Briarbrook Country Club, Cooper recalls the rock-picking parties staged by the Men of Briarbrook during the early years in vain attempts to clear away rocks from the fairways and roughs, the truckloads of dirt dumped in the hope of growing grass in tree-lined areas where grass seldom has appeared and, of course, the unfulfilled hopes and failures of a variety of owners.
Indeed, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Briarbrook was frequently referred to as “Briar-rock” by its detractors and some club members.
But times are changing for Briarbrook, both rapidly and for the better since the creation of a special tax district that provides a stable underpinning for club operations and the prospect of improvements on and off the course.
As a man who chooses his words carefully and isn’t prone to toss out undeserving accolades, Cooper says he considers the golf course to be in the best condition that he has seen over the last 41⁄2 decades.
In the interest of full disclosure, Bob is my former boss at the Joplin Globe. He was my mentor as the long-time editorial page editor, a golfing buddy and my good friend. I ascended to the editorial position with his retirement in the late 1990s.
Now back to the purpose of this column: The new Briarbrook. Much like the mythical Phoenix that rises from its own ashes, the club is enjoying a rebirth. The golf course, thanks to the work of a small but determined greens crew under Steve McKenzie, has more grass in the fairways than ever and smooth, true greens.
Sadly, rocks remain in some areas. But even that might eventually change now that a far-sighted governing board has the prospect of adequate funding to do things previously improbable, if not outright possible. What those plans may be, I have no idea.
Cooper has seen the best of times and the worst of times at Briarbrook as owner after owner tried to deal with the shortcomings of course conditioning, membership and money only to finally give up. Briarbrook has faced bankruptcy several times.
“The club is looking good,” said Cooper. “The board is making improvements in the clubhouse and the course is in excellent condition.”
A significant sign of the work going on is the growth of membership and outside play. I have dropped by Briarbrook on numerous occasions and, with the exception of those monsoon days in the last month or so, there has always been groups of golfers sitting on the veranda figuring their bets (early afternoons since I am not an early riser), others lining up near the first tee to begin play and foursomes making the turn from the front to the back nine.
That sort of activity seems an good indicator of how the club is faring and why so many members are smiling.
The Joplin Eagle Football four-person scramble is scheduled Saturday, June 22, at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course. Play will begin at 1 p.m.
The entry fee is $55 per person. Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams. Lunch will be provided at 12:30 p.m. To register a team, players should contact Rita Moore, clubhouse manager at Schifferdecker.
Purpose of the tournament is to raise money for players to attend a football camp in July.
The Harold Kirk Junior Golf Tournament will be played Tuesday, July 16, at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course. Entry fee is $20 for youngsters playing 18 holes, $15 for those playing nine holes and $10 for those playing three holes.
Checks should be made payable to the Joplin Golf Foundation, 506 S. Schifferdecker, Joplin, Mo. 64804. There is a dress code: No tank tops, halter tops or cutoff jeans.
Flights will be age groups for boys and girls: 16-18, 18 holes; 13-15, 18 holes; 10-12, nine holes; 9, seven holes; 8, five holes; and 7, three holes. Adult scorers are needed for the younger flights.