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Whatever your career, whatever you love in this life, there is an organization for your passion.
Are you a CPA? You will probably be a member of the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). Do you like to garden? There are many garden clubs in our area. Rotary Clubs allow business people to interact for mutual benefit. The Red Cross contains a legion of volunteers who will be front and center when a hurricane approaches the Carolina coast.
The list is long: VFW, Kiwanis, Lions Club, The Elks, Weight Watchers, churches, golf associations, bird watchers and square dancers. This column could not contain a listing of all the organizations available to us.
A few years ago, I joined the Carolina Golf Reporters Association (CGRA), and I’ve had a blast ever since. I’ve met some great guys and gals and I’ve been to some terrific events. The best part of a special interest group is that you can talk and listen to your heart’s content about what you love the most.
In my case, that is writing. I love to write. I love the way words (my words, your words, anybody’s words) look on paper. Far from getting writer’s block, I tend to get writer’s diarrhea of the keyboard and pen. Does an editor want 500 words? I’d like to do 1,000. In fact, I often write 1,000 words and then cut the article to 500.
In a writer’s organization, you can talk and whine and laugh about what you do, and your fellow writer’s will empathize completely.
The CGRA’s members write and/or report about golf. Some work for big dailies. Others write for magazines. Still others are in advertising, TV or radio. It’s a diverse group, and one of our chores is to nominate and elect new inductees into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame each year.
Over the last 28 years, various luminaries in the world of golf have been recognized for their outstanding contributions. All have a Carolinas connection through birth, job, college or organization. Peggy Kirk Bell, Ray Floyd, Beth Daniel, Jay Haas and Arnold Palmer are past inductees. Golf course architects Ellis Maples and his son, Dan, are in the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame.
Last week, I traveled to Pinehurst for the annual inductions, where Happ Lathrop and Chip Beck were installed into the Hall of Fame.
Lathrop has worked for the South Carolina Golf Association (SCGA) since 1976. According to Lathrop, his wife nearly killed him when he accepted the $12,000-a-year job, but as time went by, she was won over and worked at his right hand, helping him grow the organization.
When Lathrop entered the scene as its first paid employee, there were 99 member clubs in the SCGA and the total assets of the organization were $50,000. Today, nearly 300 clubs are part of the South Carolina Golf Association, representing more than 70,000 golfers. Assets are more than $1 million.
For 32 years, Lathrop worked diligently to promote junior golf in the Carolinas, creating the South Carolina Junior Golf Association in 1989 and the South Carolina Junior Golf Foundation in 1995. Numerous PGA Tour Players came out of that junior golf program, and more than $500,000 was given out in scholarships by the foundation to help fund organizations that serve minority and disadvantaged youth.
Lathrop was also a fine amateur player in his day, winning both the South Carolina Amateur Championship and the South Carolina Inter-Collegiate Championship in 1968.
There were many kudos, but what I liked most was watching the table next to me where Lathrop and his family sat. As the list of his accomplishments was read by his son-in-law, family members and Lathrop wiped away tears of joy. There was a lot of hugging and kissing. It was obvious this family was dedicated not just to golf but to each other.
The second honoree, Beck, is known in national circles. A Fayetteville native, Beck was a PGA Tour player with four victories to his credit. He also played on three Ryder Cup teams. He was a three-time All-American player on the University of Georgia golf team.
Beck brought natural talent to the game but also hard work. As a kid, he often practiced until his hands bled.
Beck now lives in Chicago with his family and competes on the Champions Tour. He could not attend the Hall of Fame Ceremony because he was in Pebble Beach, playing in the Wal-Mart First Tee Open.
However, his whole family was here and had much the same reaction as the Lothrop clan, tears and smiles. The piece de resistance came when Chip’s 14-year-old son, John, stood at the podium and talked about his dad.
“Dad taught me to work hard, to continue the tradition and the honor of the game,” said John, who is already making strides in junior golf circles. “Golf is more than just a game. It’s exhilarating and humbling all at the same time. You learn so much from playing it.”
John has been working in Chicago this summer, helping First Tee kids in the inner city learn the game of golf. He’s also a fine junior golfer and shot an 80 on Pinehurst No. 8 that afternoon.
That’s the way golf is, so much more than a game. It is the adventure of a lifetime.
Just ask Chip Beck and Lathrop.
GOLF GAB GROANER
Two friends go out to play golf one morning. On the first tee, Harry turns to Sam and says, “I’m tired of all this winter-rules stuff and moving your ball and taking free drops. Let’s play golf the way it was meant to be played. Let’s both agree that no matter what happens today, we won’t touch the ball.”
Everything went along just fine until they reached the 13th hole and Sam’s ball came to rest on a paved cart path. As he reached for it, Harry said, “No, you can’t do that. Remember? We agreed not to ever improve our lie during this round.”
No matter how much Sam argued, Harry was adamant. Finally, Sam walked over to the cart, grabbed a club and took a couple of practice swings, scraping the pavement each time and sending up showers of sparks.
Finally, after a few more practice swings, Sam stood up to the ball and took a mighty swing. Chunks of pavement flew up around them, and miraculously, the ball soared into the air, landing on the green and came to rest three feet from the hole.
“Great shot!” Harry exclaimed. “What club did you use?”
“Your 7-iron!” Sam replied with a smile.
ELSA BONSTEIN is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at email@example.com.