It’s such a simple question but sometimes I have to say it to myself just to make sure I’m on the right track. "So what? What is the purpose of this?"
I heard it a lot in graduate school. "So what? Why should people care about the countless hours of work I put into a project?" For a historian like myself, answering that question is paramount. Of course, I always try to have some perspective in answering that question though too. It isn’t like I’m a brain surgeon or attempting to cure cancer. Most people can wrap their minds around the purpose of work like that and I’m in no way putting anything I've ever done on that level. But still, answering that simple question explains so much. I believe there are certain things worth knowing and sharing with others to inform them too. That knowledge of the past helps to make our world better today and tomorrow. History doesn't repeat itself exactly, but there are certain aspects of our lives that are easily translatable from our predecessors. That’s what makes answering the “So what?” question so important.
To put it another way: this is our answer to why we are doing what we're doing with the Middle Pin. If you're familiar with Simon Sinek's Golden Circle TED talk, we're trying to get to the heart of this whole thing. If you aren't familiar with that link above; it comes highly recommended on our end.
The Haters may say, "So, these two guys really like golf. They write about it, take pictures of it, talk about it on social media, try to help golf courses help themselves with websites, etc. So what?"
Haters: "Two guys like golf... So what?" Me: "Watch this."
I think to understand our answer to that simple question, you need to understand a little about where we come from. We both grew up in a small town (shout-out Medicine Lodge, and it's suburb Isabel, where I'm from; you can find more about our partner course and community here). I’m immensely proud of the places I still call home, even though I haven’t lived there for nearly twenty years now.
Yet growing up there, for as great as it was, I didn’t fully understand all the things in life that place just didn’t have. Things that are just a few minutes down the street where I live now were day trips growing up. A trip to Wal-Mart was thirty minutes, one way, to Pratt or Alva.
For entertainment, it was the same story. Want to go to a movie? Well, if the drive-in outside of town wasn’t open, you better load up now to make the 7 PM show time. Maybe you’re feeling competitive and want to go bowling? Call, reserve a lane, and tell them we’ll see them in thirty minutes.
Except, now, if you want to go bowling where we grew up, it’ll take over an hour to find the nearest place. Pratt’s bowling alley closed down several years ago, like so many other amenities in rural America. In fact, according to this list from Kansas Bowling Association, there are only 32 bowling centers in Kansas outside of Wichita/Sedgwick County, Johnson/Leavenworth/Wyandotte Counties, Manhattan/Junction City, Lawrence, Garden City, and Salina. To give some perspective: the closest Kansas bowling alleys to Medicine Lodge today are Cheney (66 miles one way), Wellington (72 miles one way), and Great Bend (79 miles one way).
Bowling alley in Howard, Kansas, circa 1910. Primitive for sure, but better than nothing, I guess. From Kansas Memory.
I don't mean to pick on bowling, but it is kind of an easy target at this point because it hasn't always been that way. There was a time when almost every county seat town, and even some towns smaller than that, had a movie theater and/or a bowling alley. Hell, I remember going to the movie theater in Kiowa one time, a town roughly half the size of the metropolis of Medicine Lodge. My wife still talks about the birthday parties she celebrated at the lanes in Leoti. The buildings might still be there, but all that remains of those places today are memories.
Understanding that history helps answer why we're doing what we're doing. It's sad to think about but our argument is that it doesn’t have to be that way with every amenity in a small town.
Right now, almost every county in Kansas has at least one golf course. That means for many people, they’re never more than thirty minutes away from likely the only all-ages, (mostly) publicly accessible, form of physical activity. There are over 200 golf courses in the state and, while we've seen some closures in recent years, it hasn't been nearly has drastic as the closures of movie theaters, bowling alleys, and other forms of entertainment.
Like I said, history doesn't repeat itself exactly. However, the lessons learned from the closing of other entertainment options should serve as a warning to those of us who enjoy this particular game. It seems like we're at a unique point in time to do something to make sure our game doesn't go the wrong direction. And that's exactly what we're trying to do with the Middle Pin.
Places like these matter to your community. They matter to us too, including Walter.
A community is made up of the sum of its parts. Think of a town like a pizza. How pissed off would you be if the next pie delivered to your house was missing a slice or two? I’m enraged just thinking about it. And I have the same feeling seeing small towns lose a piece of who they are too.
Golf matters because these communities’ matter. The golf course is just a tiny aspect of what makes them, well, them. We can’t, and won’t, save every piece of every community. We don’t have the time, talent, or skill set, for that kind of work. But we do feel that we can help when it comes to golf.
“So what? It’s just golf. Who cares?” For one: we do. For two, you’re right, it’s just golf. But even if you don’t play, it’s part of your community. And there are some of us out here pulling for the place you call home, whether you know it or not.
Look forward to seeing the place you call home soon and, as always...
We're glad you're here.