The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

September 1, 2013

Goodwin: Group makes certain their golf is always fun

ANKENY, Iowa — They are called the “Noonies.”

You can find them on many weekdays and Saturday afternoons playing at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course or, if the weather is bad, sitting around a table in the clubhouse swapping stories, complaining about muffed shots or missed putts and laughing at the slings and arrows of golf’s outrageous fortunes.

They are a fun group. But they also take their golf seriously. Furthermore, the group is always in a state of flux, with players continually dropping in or dropping out.

I used to be one of them way, way back.

The “Noonies” name suggests their tee times. They generally start a little before or after noon.

Bob Cox, a member of the Joplin Golf Hall of Fame and a lifetime honorary member of the Joplin Golf Club, began playing with the group back in the mid-1950s. I suspect that few of the “Noonies” could tell you the year they started playing with the group, whether back in the mid-1960s or 1990s. Time tends to fog some memories and no one has kept records.

My first acquaintance with the “Noonies” came in the early 1960s. At that time, some of the best players in the city were teeing it up with the group every Saturday and Sunday: Bob Smith, Derril Tate, Terry Key, Cox, Barry Franks, Jack James, David James, Dan Endicott, Dan and Dave Tourtelot, John Gardner and Jim Greenlee among others.

One of my most vivid golf memories came as a “Noonie.” For whatever reason, Bob Smith decided in the late 1960s to take me as a partner on some bets. We usually won, but only because Bob could make a golf ball do about anything he wanted. He was routinely shooting in the low- to mid-60s.

As I walked down to the first tee one summer Saturday noon, Bob informed me that we would be “swinging” on everyone in the group. That meant we were taking cross bets against every two golfers. We probably had 15 or more bets.

I was sweating. I could lose $20 or more and I had, after paying my greens fees, about $12 in my pocket. I shouldn’t have worried. Smith dropped birdies on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. He lipped out a putt on the eighth and then saw his three-foot putt for a bird hit a spike mark on No. 9 and slip away to the right.

That 7-under on the front made playing the back nine easier.

I was always a fan of Smith’s ball-striking. He could hit high or low fades and high or low draws at will. And if he missed a drive into the rough, he always seemed able to recover. His putting was extraordinary.

At one time in the 1950s, according to Cox and Floyd Ellison, another of the top players of that era, the “Noonies” actually teed off about 10 a.m., then shifted to 11 and finally settled on noon. Again, remember that the players in the group were constantly changing.

Back in the old days, it wasn’t unknown for several hundred bucks to change hands on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. No longer. The bets today are much tamer.

As I stated, I had my introduction to the “Noonies” back in the 1960s, and I played with the group into the late-1980s or early 1990s. It was a learning experience. I discovered a lot about the mechanics of the swing and how to compete by just watching players like Smith, Tate, Franks and others. One lesson I learned is that one missed shot is just that and not a reason for despair. It sounds fundamental. But I’ve known golfers who literally gave up if they ballooned their score on a hale. My best score at Schifferdecker came in the 1980s after my drive on No. 1 rolled into the water. I kept my cool and  birdied the last three holes for a 67.

Another part of my education was I found that the best players also were those most accurate with the short irons. The biggest difference between my opponents and me was that really good players were trying to make those 100-yard shots. I was just hoping to hit somewhere on the green with a wedge or a 9-iron.

If you can break 80, or even 85, you might think about going to Schifferdecker about noon on a weekend, striking up a conversation with a couple of “Noonies” and perhaps playing a round or two with them. I would just about guarantee that you will find the experience rewarding, even if you lose a few dollars. You’re going to smile, laugh and perhaps even win a dollar or two. Better yet, you’re likely to learn something about yourself and your approach to the game. Golf is supposed to be fun. And that’s one of the requirements for being a true “Noonie.”

 Charity event

Marshall Smith, golf instructor for Gary Player, Walt Zembriski, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Craig Stadler, will be featured at the 11th annual National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and Jasper Products Charity Scramble on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course. A shotgun start is planned at 8 a.m.

Entry fee is $60 per player. Team sponsorships are $300. Checks should be made payable to NAMI Joplin. Entry forms and checks should be mailed to Rick Wiseman, Box 3872, Joplin, Mo. 64803 or email the completed form to rick wiseman@cableone.net.

 Senior Best Ball

Several spots are open in the second annual Senior 2-Man Best Ball, which will be played Thursday, Sept. 19, at Twin Hills Golf and Country Club. Entry fee is $120 per team. The field will be limited to 45 teams. Players must be 50 or over.

Entry deadline is Tuesday, Sept. 17. Flights and prizes will be based on the number of entries.

Entry forms should be mailed to Twin Hills Golf and Country Club, Attn. Doug Adams, 2019 S. Country Club Dr., Joplin, Mo. 64804.

Senior tourney

A senior 2-man scramble is scheduled Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course. Entry fee is $45 per player and includes breakfast and lunch provided by the Schifferdecker Women’s Golf Association. Prizes will be awarded in flights, which will be based on the number of entries.

Players may sign up in the Schifferdecker clubhouse or call 417-624-3533. An 8 a.m. shotgun start is set.

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