The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 16, 2012

Schifferdecker Golf Course prepares for 90th birthday

— Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course will never make any golf magazine's list of top 100 great courses.

It is flat, relatively short at just over 6,500 yards and has smallish greens. Good players will wear out their drivers and short irons if they play the course enough. Long irons will seldom see use, except on the par-5s or after a muffed drive.

But the grand old golf course, which celebrates its 90th birthday on Friday, June 29, has long been a hotbed of golf activity.

Its fairways have seen the likes of World Golf Hall of Fame honorees Byron Nelson, Patty Berg, Ralph Guldahl, Gene Sarazen, Hale Irwin and Payne Stewart. We can only assume that other luminaries of the past, such as Ky Laffoon, Leonard Ott, Horton Smith, all of whom had ties to Oak Hill Country Club (now Twin Hills), played there on occasion.

Schifferdecker also was a frequent stop in the 1950s for Titanic Thompson, golf's ultimate hustler.

The Ozark Amateur started at Schifferdecker in 1922 and was labeled by a national publication decades ago as the oldest medal-play tournament west of the Mississippi. True? I have no idea.

But what I do know is that winners of the Ozark have become integral to our colorful golf history and growing legend of Joplin as a golfing mecca.

Among the Ozark winners have been Labron Harris, long-time golf coach at Oklahoma State University and a tour player; Leonard Ott, a touring pro in the 1930s; and Gene Sallee, who would become head pro at Oak Hill Country Club in Springfield.

Perhaps the most famous of Ozark winners was Herman Keiser, who claimed the 1934 title and returned home from World War II to win the 1946 Masters at Augusta National.

The Ozark has spawned many multiple winners over the years beginning with Carl Childress, who took the title in 1925 and 1927.

Other multiple winners are Bob Hogeboom, 1937-38; Gene Wolf, 1939-40; Dave Dennis, 1954, 1957, 1959, 1965; Jim Hatfield, 1960-61; Bob Smith, 1962, 1964, 1981; Odie Wilson, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978; Mike Hammond, 1979-80; Marshall Smith Jr., 1987, 1989; Lee Larimore, 1991, 1993, 1997; Robert Russell, 1994-95; Lou Rapalino, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2006; Brian Black, 2009-2010; and Paul Ashe, 1988, 2011. 

The popular muny layout also has been a semi-regular site for the annual Joplin-Springfield rivalry known as the Horton Smith Cup. The competition dates back to 1930 and was started as a friendly competition over which city — Joplin or Springfield — could lay claim to Horton Smith as its own..

If Schifferdecker could talk, it would have thousands of stories to tell about the great players and the great games, about weekend warriors and their betting habits, about big-time gamblers, and the players who make up the backbone of any course, the guys and gals and seniors who play because they love the game.

What makes golf such a great game is the competition and comradeship. We not only play the game against an opponent, but also against the elements, against the course and, perhaps most telling, against ourselves. Personal bests are sweeter when all of these factors are involved.

I remember Schifferdecker in the 1960s when I first took up the game. The fairways were hardpan in the heat of the summer, often green in the spring and fall, and barren in the winters. On hot, dry days, drives would roll an extra 75 or 100 yards. The small greens, baked by the sun, required delicately struck if the ball were to remain on the putting surface. 

Over the years I've heard players criticize the course for being short and easy. But, like any course, Schifferdecker can bite the guy or gal who has too much pride in his or her game and not enough respect for the layout.

If you come out to Schiffy— as those who love the layout call it — for the 90-cent play day, try to imagine what the course looked like decades ago when plus-fours were in style and before irrigation changed the style of play.

Junior tourney

The Harold Kirk Junior tournament is scheduled Tuesday, July 17, at Schifferdecker golf course for youngsters up to 18 years of age and as young as 8. Deadline for entries is July 13, and entry fee is $15.

Age groups for boys and girls will be 16-18, 18 holes; 13-15, 18 holes; 10-12, 9 holes (with scorers); and 8-9, seven holes (with scorers). Trophies will be awarded for three places in each flight. Parents must sign a release for their child to compete.

Checks should be made payable to the Joplin Golf Foundation, 506 S. Schifferdecker, Joplin, Mo. 64804.

Scramble for football

A four-person scramble to benefit the Carthage High School football program will be played Friday, July 20, at Carthage Municipal Golf Course. A shotgun start is planned at 1 p.m.

The field will be limited to the first 25 teams to sign up. Entry fee will be $60 per player. Prizes and flights will be determined by the number of entries.

Couples shuffle

The Couples Shuffle will be played Saturday, June 30, at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course, and Sunday, July 1, at Baxter Springs (Kan.) Country Club.

Entry fee is $150 per team. Prizes and flights will be determined by entries.

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