About three months ago, newly named Eagle Bend Golf Course superintendent Darin “Lumpy” Pearson hit the links with the idea of transforming Lawrence’s city-owned public course from a place locals dealt with to one people drove miles to enjoy.
Through 90 days, the feedback on Pearson’s effort was outstanding. Those who worked at Eagle Bend said the course was in the best shape they’d ever seen. Those who played it regularly began to notice — and like — the changes immediately.
Saturday, those points of view picked up a heavy dose of credibility from the dozens of golfers who poured off the course after their opening rounds at the Lawrence Amateur Golf Association’s city tournament.
“The course looks beautiful,” said Doug Wilson, of Lawrence, who plays most often at Alvamar. “The greens were in the best shape I’ve ever seen them, and you can tell that they’re really trying to define the tee boxes and the rest of the course with nice mowing. It’s definitely some place I’d enjoy playing more.”
One by one, other competitors offered up similar remarks.
“It just makes it a much more enjoyable tournament when you’re playing on a well-cared-for golf course,” said Galen Smith, also of Lawrence. “Everybody knows city budgets. It’s tough. So for them to have the course looking this good in the middle of the summer is nice.”
Words such as those brought smiles to the faces of the Eagle Bend employees, especially head pro John Morris.
“It’s great,” said Morris, in his 11th year. “Everybody that came in just kept saying, ‘Hey, the course looks great.’ When people are saying that with this heat, what’s that tell you?”
Funny Morris mentioned heat. Other than Eagle Bend’s hot new look, the sweltering summer temperatures were the most popular topic of conversation Saturday. As temperatures rose above the 100-degree mark yet again and the heat index soared to almost 120 degrees at some spots on the course, local golfers did all they could to stay cool.
“Just the standard stuff, really,” Michael Rack said. “Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.”
Added Tom Rainbolt: “We’re used to it by now. We’ve been golfing for the past couple of weeks in this stuff.”
While most golfers wore sun visors, upped their water intake and sought out shade whenever possible, course officials made the rounds to ensure everyone was OK and all the water jugs were full.
While some talked self-preservation and others about the beauty of the course, one man had the vision to blend the two topics.
“We think it’s bad on us out there,” said Dennis Gisel, who fired a 74. “But the golf course is under attack.”
Asked if Pearson’s upgrades had made the course more difficult, Gisel was honest.
“Not really,” he said. “It just looks better.”
That was the idea in the first place, and now, with a big thumbs-up from some of the city’s best golfers, Eagle Bend seems poised for big things in the future.
The golfers themselves, many of whom promised they’d be back after getting a firsthand look at the Bend’s facelift, get to do it all over again today at Lawrence Country Club. The final round begins at 9 a.m.