Home > Friends of SMP, Sports > Cue Wonder Years voiceover… it's about to get nostalgic up in here

Cue Wonder Years voiceover… it's about to get nostalgic up in here

Earlier this week, I got an email from a buddy from my hometown.  He proposed that a few of us get together at the old golf course – Magnolia Country Club in lovely, bucolic Magnolia, NC – for a round of golf for old time’s sake.  Sounded like a great way to spend a early spring Saturday.  That is, until a friend who still lives in the area threw down the news I didn’t really expect.  The old course had been shut down.

I didn’t believe it at first.  “My home course,” as I frequently called it, has been closed to make way for a housing development, hospital or an industrial park.  Since this area isn’t really a hotbed for, well, anything, the land is pretty much up for grabs.  But the one thing it won’t be is a golf course.  And that sorta sucks.

Magnolia CC – or as it was known for many years, Lakewood CC – wasn’t a very spectacular golf course.  When I first started playing it at age 12, it was only a nine-hole track.  It was flat, like the topography of the entire county, and it often featured as many weeds as it did grass on the greens and fairways.  A thin stand of pines was the only thing separating the fairways, offering little shade and allowing the fairways to become baked as hard as runways.

I really enjoyed the way the old nine-hole course started out.  The first four holes were straight, short-ish par 4s (none exceeded 320 yards).  The only really tricky hole was the 6th, a 140-yard par 3 over the water.  The designer even allowed you to wuss out and play an alternate #6 right past the pro shop for a slightly longer par 3 that featured no water.

But, in my teens, when I was just starting to play the game, the course may as well have been Pebble Beach.  I struggled and sweated under the hot North Carolina sun with a heavy leather golf bag strapped to my shoulder.  The bag, incidentally, weighed approximately 30 times more than the five-piece junior set of clubs I was using – a 2-wood, three irons (5, 7 and 9) and a putter.  My buddy Andy, always a superior golfer who would keep that status to this day, always seemed to be in command on the course, but I hacked around like a drunken Dwight Eisenhower.  In later years, Chris and Chuck would join in, and we’d spray shots around the deserted wasteland.  Good times.

In later years, they expanded Magnolia to include a full 18 holes.  They broke up the monotonous start and added some variety.  They planted young pine trees to augment the 50-60 year old pines that dominated the landscape. They were throwing more money into maintenance and grounds keeping. The old place was starting to come together.  It always felt strange to play a “real course” at Magnolia, but it was still home.

In fact, the last time I played it, about five years ago, I broke 90 for the second time of my life (both times it was at Magnolia). The course was in solid shape, and it seemed to have some nice business.  The sweet lady in the pro shop was intrigued to talk to people who had played the course 20 years before.

That day, I left with the feeling that no matter how far away I got from my hometown – physically, mentally or emotionally – some things stayed permanent.  Or at least semi-permanent.

But that’s impractical.  That flat patch of ground next to I-40 will no longer by “my” golf course.  Or anyone else’s.  Sure, there are other things in and around my hometown that are still the way I remembered them.  Each year, though, these things become fewer and fewer.  You can go home again.  Just don’t expect to recognize everything there.

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Categories: Friends of SMP, Sports
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