High Hopes

     In our small but beautiful part of the world we're just days away from welcoming visitors from around the world for the 2012 Senior PGA Championship at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores.  Players from at least 15 countries will begin arriving shortly and what has been decades of work by countless volunteers and visionary leadership from many different walks of life will be shared globally on television. I'm expecting phenomenal weather and even better golf for those who join us leading up to Memorial Day.
      I've already seen automatic email responses from a number of local individuals volunteering who aren't going to be available until after the final ball drops Sunday, May 27th. The construction around this amazing course to handle the golfers, fans, media, sponsors, employees and volunteers is exciting to watch.  I used to do play-by-play for the Western Amateur at the Point O'Woods on WSJM when it was still here. There is something inspirational about the combination of natural beauty, precision athletic ability, and the integrity and sportsmanship of the game that sets Golf apart for me.
     As a 11 year old I used to put my clubs over my shoulder and ride my bike (3 speed) the four or so miles out to what's now Ledge Meadows in Grand Ledge, Michigan to play nearly every day in the summer.  Walking of course.  I used to play in the summer with my grandparents at Brookwood in Buchanan when visiting for a few weeks every summer.  Until the age of 13 when one gorgeous Southwest Michigan day I reached the 500 yard Par 5  #13 hole in two with my three wood. It was mostly a lucky role up the middle of the fairway. He never played with me again after that, but dropped me off instead and covered the cost for which I'm still grateful.  I miss both of them.
     Is it possible for a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course to provide the impetus for regional economic development which provides regional growth?  Absolutely. It may not come as fast as some would like, and certainly it has not been without a great deal of controversy. Change is always complicated. But I for one have high hopes that the Champions for Change movement stretches well beyond Benton Harbor.

    We plant seeds in many ways in our lives, not knowing which will grow and bear fruit, which will get swallowed by weeds, which will get eaten by vultures (we have the human kind here that exist everywhere, not the fowl) and which seeds may lay dormant until someone else waters them.
     I have high hopes.  Tickets are still available by the way if you're in the region.  It's a can't miss opportunity. Not to mention the fishing, wineries, art galleries and beaches up and down the coast that's roughly an hour from Chicago, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo - but that's a post for another day.
    Visit the Southwest Michigan Tourist Council for some ideas.

      For all those who have volunteered, given their time, talent and/or treasure to reach this incredible opportunity next week: THANK YOU!

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