By Katie Gilliam
Special to the Enterprise
The lyrics to the song “Welcome Home” by REHAB are blaring through our speakers as we pull into the Lynch Country Club for the 2012 Lynch Invitational Tournament. “Welcome home where the faucets drip at night…Welcome home where the screen door don’t hang right…Welcome home the only place you’ll ever fight the ones you love…over and over again…” The words just seem to sum up that overwhelming feeling of coming home and love that we all share for this place and each other.
This year approximately 95 golfers will crowd the little course along with all of the supporters. I am amazed at how good the course looks due solely to the efforts of a few selfless members who have volunteered their time in order that we may have a great L.I.T. I am also instantly reminded of some of the faces we will not see this year like our dear friend Scott Elliott who passed away earlier in the year. But then I am reminded that all of those who have loved this place but have passed on are still gathered here and their presence is felt all around us.
It is Friday evening and the opening ceremony is conducted with the welcoming of new players who are first-time L.I.T. golfers. They are asked to introduce themselves as the crowd genuinely applauds them and doles out welcoming handshakes. Ben Lancaster receives special recognition for having made what I believe is his 23rd appearance at the L.I.T. Ben was introduced to the L.I.T. by his good friend and Lynch native David “Bee” Vicini back in 1988. While you may ask yourself why simply showing up is worthy of recognition, you would certainly understand it if you were aware of the genuine love and support that Ben has for the place. After a rather long-winded speech by Ben, the ceremony continued. (I only write that because part of experiencing the L.I.T. is the good-natured “jabbing” in which we all engage and of which Ben himself is a master.) Finally, the recipient of the 2012 L.I.T. dedication is announced and the recipient is the very revered former Lynch High School football coach, Ed Miracle. After his many achievements are recognized, he is greeted with a standing ovation.
Tournament play for the championship and qualifying for the flights begins on Saturday morning. Nick Early (age 16) gets a hole-in-one on hole #6, a first for him. While Sunday’s play would bring two more holes-in-one by Mike Shepherd on his first shot of the day and by Ryan Helfenberger, Nick basks in the joy of his accomplishment. At the end of the day, Pete Cornett, Jr. is in the lead for the championship flight.
Saturday evening is filled with old friends and new gathering at the clubhouse replaying golf shots, reminiscing of past times, and all enjoying that general feeling of sentimentality which I cannot adequately explain in words. The dance then gets started and that is all I will say about that.
As usual, Sunday’s 7:30 a.m. tee time comes way too quickly. I repeat way too quickly. Nevertheless, I know all too well that this tournament is a tournament of endurance and I will not become the ridiculed golfer who WD’s due to lack of sleep. As the day progresses and the flights finish up, we begin to congregate to watch the championship unfold. As we do so an unexpected and somewhat disturbing new tradition is born. We never could have anticipated that the simple act of a few tired souls setting up some folding lawn chairs and sharing an elephantine bag of peanuts would result in the birth of what will henceforth be known as “The Seventh Hole Peanut Gallery!” A group of ne’re -do-wells and hecklers feeding off of not only peanuts but also the laughter at their own jokes and constant “ribbing” of each other. Rainbo Johnson declares that he has sat at Amen Corner on Augusta’s hallowed ground while watching The Masters, but this beats it! A sentiment he would repeat several times including at the closing ceremony where he pointed his finger at the crowd and whipped himself into a frenzy.
As newcomer Jason Vance chips in a birdie to complete an almost record score of 16 for the round, the Peanut Gallery gives him the first “wave” to be given to an L.I.T golfer. An honor that he will likely hold more dearly in the years to come than the phenomenal score of 16. (It is believed that the record was a 15, which was shot by Andrew Forester when he was around the same age as the score.)
Finally, as the last of the championship flight approaches the seventh hole, it is evident that the match has been narrowed down to two golfers: Pete Cornett, Jr., a past champion/local chap and newcomer Jason Vance of Corbin, Kentucky. As they finish the seventh they are tied for the championship. Darkness is approaching and a sudden death playoff is declared. Jason Vance is asked what he thinks of the L.I.T and declares that, “you can either eat this course’s lunch or it can eat yours.” Thereafter, both golfers head to the seventh tee again and hit their respective tee shots. Both are just barely short of the green. Jason Vance chips up and is left with a longer-than-he would-like putt. His caddy for the playoff, Conner Cornett, later advised that he tried to call him off of the seven iron punch shot and instead get him to opt for the flop shot but he would not listen. Pete Cornett, Jr. then steps up and chips one just a few inches from the hole. Jason, exhibiting good sportsmanship, gave Pete the putt and focuses on the putt he will now have to make for par to keep the playoff going. As we all hold our collective breath he strokes the putt and narrowly misses it thereby making Pete Cornett, Jr. the 2012 L.I.T. Champion. The crowd erupts into cheers and congratulatory applause.
Only those who have actually played in the L.I.T. can ever truly appreciate the respect gained and the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies winning the L.I.T championship. Even though Pete was a past champion, as he received the trophy he reiterated in true emotion how much it meant to him to win the title.
After the prizes were claimed at the closing ceremony highlighted by Rainbo Johnson riding a child’s bike, we again said our goodbyes. We dragged our poor tired bodies to our vehicles and pulled away noticing a large heap of peanut shells covering the ground. It was then declared that this was the best and most fun L.I.T. ever.