In an era when more golf courses are being bulldozed under than being built, last week was a pleasant testimony to endurance as Don Shula’s Golf Club celebrated its 50th anniversary.
This was a course, owned by the Graham family that pretty much created Miami Lakes, that was built out of a manure-filled cow field.
Some three decades later, President Bill Clinton was playing the course two days after his inauguration.
Last week, former U.S. senator and governor of Florida Bob Graham was a smiling participant at the golden anniversary ceremony. He was the person who invited Clinton to play that day in 1993 and joined the president as his partner.
“You can imagine, we were talking about a lot of stuff in addition to golf swings,” Graham said.
Graham admitted: “I am not a very good golfer, but to any ability I have, I owe to this course. I’ve played 95 percent of the rounds in my life here. It has been my connection to a game that is not only a good test of your ability but also a good test of your ability to be a friend.
“I like the game,” he continued. “I like the competition and the relaxation that comes with being outdoors in a beautiful setting. I have broken 80 one time in my life, so that will tell you enough about my ability.”
Graham, now 76, vividly remembers the start-up of the golf course.
“There were several hundred Angus cows out here, and they poop,” he recalled. “There was several years of manure on this property, so we thought it would be a good place to grow grass.
“We told ourselves, ‘God had given us one great advantage. We were starting with the ugliest piece of property on earth and the only thing we could do was to make it look better.’ Look out there and you can decide if we made the ugliest piece of land on earth look great.”
The course was originally called Miami Lakes, but Dolphins coach Don Shula lived off one of the fairways, thus his name became synonymous with it.
The crowd at the celebration already knew the answer but nevertheless looked out upon the tree-rich course that has lush fairways — apparently, the manure as fertilizer wasn’t a bad idea.
Graham does have one happy/sad tale about his time on the course, and it involved a hole-in-one.
“In 1998, there was a par-3, and I made my first hole-in-one, and that shot changed my attitude toward golf. I always thought before then that getting a hole-in-one was just a matter of luck,” he said with a smile and tongue firmly planted in cheek. “But after that shot, I realized it was really dedication to the game, intensity of interest, willingness to sacrifice to be the very best you can be that resulted in that hole-in-one.”
Now, here comes the sad part. .
“Sometime after I made that shot they ripped up the hole I got my hole-in-one on. Oh well,” he said.
That said, what they can’t rip up and take away from Graham and the people that have played the course for a half-century is some extremely fond memories.
Nova Southeastern golfer Ben Taylor, a junior from Leatherhead, England, has been selected as the only NCAA Division II golfer to be named to the Ben Hogan Watch List, as selected by the Golf Coaches Association of America. That makes him one of the top 27 golfers in the NCAA.
The Ben Hogan Award is considered the most prestigious award in men’s collegiate golf and is presented annually to the top NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or NJCAA golfer, taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions.