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How we battle the effects of a recession

By Dave Duffy

Dave Duffy

Issue #132 • November/December, 2011

The initial First Tee Cup teams, from left: Toby Stanley, Matt Anderson, Toby Stanley Jr., Robby Duffy, Brett Martin, Dave Duffy, Alfonso Powers, Dewey Powers, Dennis Allen, Dane Ross, Jim Toth, Dewey Powers III.

Like other communities across America, mine has been suffering from the current recession. The county government is near bankruptcy, many of the cops have been laid off, schools have let teachers go and cut classes and sports programs, and small businesses have furloughed long-time employees or cut their hours. It can be a bit depressing in a small community that wasn't that prosperous to begin with.

But in my town we decided to do something about it, at least in our small way. A few of us local businessmen and semi-retired publishers like me set out to create something positive. Since I'm a golfer, I bought into the idea of fellow retiree and golfer, Grant Hornbeak, that we start a youth golf club to not only replace one of the sports the local schools cut but also to get the community involved in something that had the potential to boost the local economy.

We called the club Wild Rivers Junior Golf (WRJG), and Hornbeak quickly linked it to the PGA's First Tee program by starting up a First Tee class at our local elementary school. One of the teachers there, Glen Litterell, agreed to take First Tee training from the PGA. BHM provided the $3,000 seed money needed for the specialized First Tee equipment and child-sized golf clubs.

Hornbeak then launched a WRJG Summer Golf Camp at the local Cedar Bend Golf Course that attracted more than 20 kids and volunteers like Jake and Audrey Jacobson, course manager Toby Stanley, and the entire girls' and boys' high school golf teams. I was the publicity guy, making sure the camp got adequate press coverage in the local newspaper. Parents brought their kids out to attend.

Then I put on my publisher's hat, first enlisting the sympathetic voice of our popular local newspaper's sports columnist, Randy Robbins. Then I challenged Dewey Powers, the owner of our biggest restaurant, Spinner's Seafood, Steak, and Chop House, to a thousand dollar match, proceeds to be donated to WRJG.

Dewey was aware my company had sponsored the high school boys' golf team the last four years, and he had read about the success of the WRJG Summer Golf Camp in the local newspaper. And I was aware that Dewey, like other business owners in the community, was always being approached for donations to help good causes, so I didn't want to just go begging for support. Instead, realizing he was an avid golfer with two golfing sons, one of whom is the local club champ, I challenged him to a match involving some of the best golfers in the county. The winner would claim a beautiful trophy that WRJG would provide, and the loser would donate $1000 to WRJG. I pointed out to Dewey that his team would have the advantage since he himself was a good golfer and I (a well-known terrible golfer) intended to play for my own team.

But for spice, I broadened the wager: "The loser also buys both teams dinner in your own restaurant!"

He agreed and we played the match two weeks later, his six golfers against mine. Randy Robbins gave us the necessary publicity to get the local golfing community involved, and many people came out to watch it. His team won, but that didn't bother me, nor did I mind ponying up the thousand bucks for WRJG, because I had already lined up Spinner's next opponent, Gold Beach Lumber, which had agreed to the same format. In fact, I had lined up the next contender after that, Jerry's Jet Boats, and the next, The Corner Drug, and the next, my dentist Dr. Tom Westfall.

Randy Robbins wrote a dramatic story about the first match in the paper, highlighting the beauty of the crystal glass Curry County First Tee Cup that Spinner's had won. The trophy is now proudly displayed in Spinners' entryway where hundreds of diners see it daily.

The result of all this activity is that we're filling the coffers of WRJG at the rate of a thousand dollars a match so we can fund the school's First Tee program, another summer golf camp, and both the boys' and girls' high school golf teams. Grant Hornbeak and I took his original idea to create a First Tee program and involved a lot of other community members in a fun way that gave something to the donors as well as to the kids we wanted to help.

In our small way, we're helping replace what a bad economy had taken away. We're now making plans to start two more First Tee programs at schools in the nearby towns of Brookings and Port Orford. Hornbeak is going after PGA grants available to programs like ours that have already shown success, and that could create money for golf jobs. To heck with the bad economy!

Read More by Dave Duffy

Read More Opinion / Commentary

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