The Match at Marion

Found the middle of the fairway on hole #2 at Marion.

It was raining when I left my house. The radar on my phone showed that it was likely going to be raining for the entire hour plus drive north. The weather was moving the same way I was headed. I pointed my truck north anyway. I needed the therapy and was willing to take the chance.

I pulled into Marion a little early and the rain was still falling. It wasn’t heavy; it was just the nice, light rain that puts a smile on all the faces of all the good folks down at the local co-op. I was still hopeful that it would let up in time for us to get to play. But as the clock ticked closer to our scheduled tee time, I was huddled on the porch of the clubhouse, peering out through the rain drops at the epic tee shot that awaited on the first hole.

The rain and the tee shot on first hole were taunting me while I waited.

It was great to see Kevin when he pulled in. It had been a couple weeks and I was excited to get to play with him. We spent a few minutes catching up when our host pulled in and went down the drive to the cart shed. We jumped in the car and went down to meet him.

Our host for the day was Roger. Roger found the Middle Pin online somehow and registered as a member on the Middle Pin website (follow the link and click “Get Connected in the top right). He was one of the first people to follow what we were doing that wasn’t a friend or family member. When I reached out to him a few weeks ago, he was all in hosting us at his home course. It was still raining so we decided to head back to my familiar stomping grounds of the porch of the clubhouse to wait it out. We gave Roger some tMP swag. He was more than prepared and hooked us up with Marion High baseball hats and shirts.

Roger’s brother and playing partner for our match pulled in about ten minutes later. It was still raining but it didn’t bother me one bit. I was perfectly content talking over a few pre-round beers while watching the rain. We hit on everything: golf, COVID-19 and how its impacted our lives, baseball, and our collective backstories. Roger and Tyler both thought I was playing a joke on them with my San Francisco 49ers rain jacket. They were originally from Fresno and said they were still just getting over the Super Bowl. Tyler even repped the Bay Area with a Giants putter cover. I could see a little disappointment on their faces when I told them I’m actually not a fan; it was just a gift for speaking at a conference and I liked to wear it in the rain. They were relieved to know that my oldest son is a Niners fan because of that same trip though.

Tyler (left) and Roger (right), the Cali Bros in Kansas, were our gracious hosts for the day.

The rain delay pushed our scheduled tee time back about an hour, but sure enough, the rain eventually let up and we geared up to put a few down range. Roger asked us what the game was and we took the bait. We should have known better. It was their home course after all. For future reference, we’ll always take the bait. We settled the stakes and teed it up for the shot I had been staring at for over an hour.

A few words come to mind in thinking of the Marion Country Club. Pure: the condition was immaculate. You could tell this place was well cared for by the staff and members. Hilly: there is quite a bit of elevation change throughout the course, especially on the first and ninth holes. I always love to see places out here in the middle use the contours of the land. Welcoming: not only were our hosts happy to show us around and great company, but as more and more members showed up to enjoy their course, several made their way over to say hi and see who was up on our match.

After playing the course one time through, I commented that it almost feels like two courses smashed into one nine-hole layout. The first three holes are unique with monster elevation change on hole one, a dogleg left second, and a short par-three third. Hole four is where the big change happens: the tee shot crosses a creek and goes back up a bluff to the fairway that then turns directly into the south wind. The fourth green and fifth tee feel like you’re on top of a mountain after starting down by the creek below. The dog-leg right fifth hole, facing to the west with the prevailing wind off the left and the fairway tilting the same direction, was probably my favorite. Holes six, seven, and eight, all feature some elevation change but are all designed going north and south making them some of the more difficult holes on the course depending on the wind direction. To put a bow on the round, the ninth hole is a long, down-hill par-three that is surrounded by water short and left of the green. All-in-all, its a very well put together layout that uses the natural landscape and features more elevation change than you’d expect from a small-town, central Kansas golf course.

Kevin stripes a long iron on the fourth tee.

We finished nine holes and all played well but the Middle Pin boys had a COMMANDING one stroke lead at the turn. That lead obviously went straight to our head because we proceeded to lose it on the first hole of the back nine. Tyler eyed my irons and flushed his trial run with my five iron on hole twelve. I didn’t hit a five iron that good all day. We changed the music up; the Cali bros obviously felt right at home with the West Coast rap and Beastie Boys coming from the speaker in our cart. It didn’t seem to matter. The brothers plugged right along while Kevin and I kept stubbing our proverbial toes, especially on the long par-five thirteenth (hole four).

Tyler’s birdie and Roger’s par on the seventeenth while team tMP went par-par pretty much ended the match. All that was left was the long, par-three, eighteenth back down the hill toward the clubhouse. The brothers both pulled their irons a little too far to the left and there was a glimmer of hope for us if they both put them in the creek down the left side of the green. At least, there was hope until I washed my tee shot in the pond short of the green. Roger managed to find his tee shot in the hazard area by the creek and cashed in, literally, an epic up and down for par. It didn’t much matter what we did at that point. The match was over.

That didn’t mean that the evening was over though. We made our way back to where we started, the front porch of the clubhouse, to settle up, rehash the round, tell a few jokes, and to wash it all down with a beer. It was a great end to a great day, regardless of who won on the scorecard. At least, that’s what I’ll tell myself tonight when my head hits the pillow.

I feel like I say this all the time, but adventures like this are exactly the reason why we started the Middle Pin. Roger and Tyler were awesome and just like us. They just love golf. They love their course. They love their town. And its getting out to places like Marion that reminds me there are places like this one, and people like them, all around here. This was our story and experience playing with them but the names and the place could be substituted out for hundreds of places across our state. We want to live those stories and see these places. We also think our central idea behind the Middle Pin could help a whole lot of them too.

Roger wasted no time pimping his rig with a tMP sticker.

Maybe I would have played Marion on my own. Maybe not. I’d already played in that county before so I can say it probably wouldn’t have been high on my list. It wouldn’t have been the same though. We wouldn’t have met Roger and Tyler; wouldn’t have met some of the other members; wouldn’t have came home with a sweet new hat. On the other hand, it’s likely that I would have came back home with a little more money in the Venmo account… And if that’s the only bad takeaway from a golf adventure, then I think it was a complete success.

We’ll be back to Marion again. That’s a promise. And also an appeal for a rematch.

As always,

We’re Glad You’re Here – tMP

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