My alma mater, Missouri is now officially in the SEC. I'm not real excited about the move. Shoot man, I still miss the Big-8. :) But times change and greed runs amok.
But this is not a lament. It's a piece from quite a while ago that shares with you a special place in my soul and on this planet. And it shows that God is indeed redemptive and funny when a Mizzou Tiger can consider Lawrence, KS, the town of our rivals the KU Jayhawks a special place.
I was sitting in class in Morrison, Colorado with my 55 classmates earning my Masters in Counseling. My wife ran the food co-op. She organized a group of volunteers to spend three hours at the Food Bank of the Rockies and in turn we could buy low cost food and distribute it among the students. Each student purchased a share and co-op day was somewhat like Christmas every month. Though I've never received a 1000 little boxes of Fruit Loops for Christmas. We eventually decorated our front yard with them and the deer enjoyed a colorful feast for a while. But I digress.
Ann was up in front of the classroom making an announcement about the food co-op. She was wearing a sweatshirt of mine. It was one of those with big block letters that started on the right sleeve, went across the chest and finished on the left sleeve. This one said A-L-V-A-M-A-R.
My friend Elijah turned to me and asked, "What's Alvamar?"
I said, "It's a golf course in Kansas."
My soul churned so I picked up a pen and wrote this in class to give to Elijah to tell him the rest of the story.
Alvamar is the golf course @ the University of Kansas. Alvamar for me is a place of beauty where I can rest. Alvamar is a place I can go to remember what it feels like to be a champion. Alvamar is a place where I played my best round in college which soon turned to a bittersweet moment.
Each year in college in May we played the Big-8 Championship @ Alvamar. My freshman year I was 18. At the Big-8 we played in twosomes. We played with Colorado. I played with Tom Lee a senior @ CU. The first day of the Big-8 we play 36 holes with just the one man. In this case for me, Tom Lee. I bogeyed the first hole. The rest of the way I made 4 birdies & 13 pars. I shot 3 under 69. Tom shot even par 72.
We were both thrilled about our scores. During the round there was a connection where we rooted for one another like had never happened in a round of college golf. I was tied for 3rd as a freshman!!! There was a sudden turn. Tom had rushed me to complete his scorecard when we finished. I forgot a shot he hit on #17 and put down a 5 instead of a 6. I knew he had shot 72 but put down the wrong score on that hole. Tom didn't catch it. The hole-by-hole added up to 71, Tom signed for it, an incorrect scorecard, so his score for the first round didn't count.
After about an hour it was time for Tom and I to tee it up for the afternoon round. I messed up his card but he still has the ultimate responsibility to get it right. I was unsettled. He was staring into the sky with his hands on his hips. He was devastated to have played so well but not to have it count. We had to spend the next 3 hours together.
As fun as the morning round was, the afternoon round was equally as lonely. We hardly spoke. It was tense. We didn't root for one another. I shot 81. I was devastated. I ran to have a drink with a high school buddy. Still, Alvamar became one of my favorite places to play.
We had two more Big-8's then I redshirted a year. My final year it was borderline whether I would get to go to the Big-8. Just before the tournament I was chosen to go. The first round we were paired again with CU. I played with Ron Speaker. I shot 77. In the afternoon round, I was 3-over after 8 holes. Then, I birdied 9,10 & 13. I was back to even. The 14th hole has water all the way down the left. I made a chicken swing and hit it waaayyy right in the weeds. I lost my ball. I had to walk all the way back to the tee. I hit it into the weeds again. I made triple bogey. I bogeyed a couple more holes coming in & shot another 77. Shit. Coach had to be wondering if he made the right choice.
The next day I played with Ron again. 18 holes on the second day. I bogeyed the 3rd hole. I came to 14 (my 5th of the day), the one with water on the left. I stood on the tee wondering what I was made of. I had to aim it right down the water line and rip it. I did. There was a triumph in that moment that made me feel like I belonged out there again. I birdied the hole. I was even at the turn after 9.
The back 9 each shot was near disaster. Still, after 16 I was just 1 over par. On 17 I chopped 3 shots to the fringe of the green. There was mud on my ball. I had to putt up a ridge. Hit it a foot right and it stays 6 feet above the hole down a steep slope. Hit it a foot left and it goes 10 feet left of the hole. I putted it up to the edge of the ridge. It nearly stopped but began to turn straight left. Kathump, kathump because of the mud and right in the hole. Birdie! I shot even par 72, second low score of the day. We won the Big-8, only the 2nd team in 30 years besides Oklahoma State to win. I finished 5th & was named All Big-8.
Alvamar is a place where I am a champion. It also allows me to rest. Four months after Ann and I had entered a dark time where divorce could occur (her affair had been revealed) I played 18 holes at Alvamar. By myself. It was cold & windy. It was beautiful. For 3 hours I experienced play and rest as I played the holes. God is good. God is good even though my heart was in shreds @ the time.
Alvamar is the golf course @ the University of Kansas.
I stopped by Alvamar this summer just before I did my first Ironman 70.3. Another great memory in Lawrence.