Fifty years ago this month, I teed it up for the first time at the Abilene Country Club.
Apologies to Great Life Golf and Fitness, but it will always be the “country club” to me.
You can put me in the same category as the old men that still give directions to Kyle Bridge Road, Greyhound Lane and Marymount Road, now referred to as Jeep Road, Deer Road and Country Club Road, respectively.
The set of golf clubs that I used at the time had a veneer finish and naturally the older players made fun of my “wood shafted” irons.
Those days Doug French, Mitch Rorabaugh, Kent Holtzen, Mike Dahl, Mark Allen and I lived on the golf course. We played golf during the day, ate lunch and then went swimming in the afternoon.
The tee box on No. 5 — we didn’t have two tee boxes in those days — was up top where the women’s tee is now.
There was a rock walkway up the west side where we caught lizards and then staged lizard races.
The clubhouse had an upstairs apartment.
The bar was in the basement and a couple slot machines were in the back room.
Before Kansas approved any kind of gambling, country clubs and fraternal organizations were infamous for their illegal wagering.
Card games, football pools, scratch tickets, slot machines and Calcutta auctions were just some of the gaming that was going on before Kansas approved the lottery and casinos, many of which are probably still going on today
During the Invitational Golf Tournament — a huge tournament that attracted players nationwide — we junior golfers made some extra money by caddying, like in the movie “Caddyshack” for those that don’t know that being a caddy entails.
“Your guy plays really slow so keep him going.”
“He can’t see past his nose so keep an eye on the ball.”
Those were some of the instructions given to us caddies about the players. We were paid in tips when 50 cents was a big tip for some of those rich players.
One year the sheriff got wind that a casino night was in the works. Naturally, local spies found out the raid was on and the event was canceled.
When the sheriff and deputies arrived, a few of the guys were playing poker with dollar bills on the table which the sheriff closed down. No arrests were made.
The course looked a lot different 50 years ago than it does now. New tee boxes have been built on just about every hole. Huge trees to the left of tee boxes on holes 8 and 9 are now gone.
Hole 5 didn’t need a pump house back then as a giant weeping willow tree sucked up the water and created a hazard for us golfers.
I have to mention that the old clubhouse had a deck that led down to the pool where there was no fence. More than one person fully clothed tripped and ended up in the baby pool.
The clubhouse burned to the ground in 1977 and a new one was constructed.
We held a member-guest tournament back in the 1980s. The four-person committee met the day after the entry deadline to review the entries, limited to 80 players.
By then, 85 had already signed up and missing were the names of many prominent golfers who had forgotten about the deadline but fully intended to participate.
We certainly had a dilemma.
My two kids also spent summers golfing and swimming. After a round of golf on Saturday afternoon, I often joined the family at night by the pool where we ate hamburgers and fries and the meal was topped of with a Club Brownie.
The Abilene Country Club was founded on Oct. 21, 1920. In April of that year, 139 members contributed $100 to buy land and build a clubhouse. That project was completed in 1922.
In 1935, 40 additional acres were purchased at a cost of $5,000, north of the existing site. The parcel had a seasonal brook that ran along the north property line, feeding a small pond. The intention at the time was to form a pond and establish an additional 9 holes in this area.
However, when the Interstate 70 project was constructed, it physically separated the once abutting land areas and negated such plans.
Lots of great memories have been made on that land.