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Experiencing a rain delay out at Hickory Ridge gold course in Carbondale, several of us golfers tried to project the benefits and disadvantages to the golf course in the possible merging of the Carbondale Park District and the city. The Comments quickly turned to listing of the many ways the golf course benefits various enterprises.

Each March, the golf course hosts the Saluki Invitational in women's golf. This year, 14 teams competed in the two-day event. Iowa, Tennessee and Nebraska traveled the farthest. Considering that nearby college teams and relatives went home each day, and estimating an average number of parents, grandparents, etc., per player, we deemed that more than 200 people rented motel rooms, ate in restaurants and purchased gasoline and other necessities in Southern Illinois.

We also took note of the fact that many of these fine visitors had not been to Southern Illinois before and would learn to appreciate its people and the region. With year-to-year change of teams and constant change of players, many visitors are new each year.

Some years, Hickory Ridge hosts high school tournaments. Many come a day early to practice. Like the university and college folks, parents and other visitors use their credit cards in motels and stores to the benefit of many enterprises.

Four times each year, 20 or more Egyptian Senior Association golfers play Hickory Ridge. These being one-day outings, the Park District is the major benefactor. However, gas stations and other retailers reap some benefits from fine gentlemen who come from all over Egypt.

From late March through October, each Wednesday morning, 40 to 60 seniors compete in nine-hole games of various configurations. Many of the men are from out of district and thus pay full fees at the golf course and make incidental purchases in the community.

Several times each year, Hickory Ridge attracts three or more foursomes from Wisconsin. They make reservations like clockwork because they cannot play on ice and snow and find our March and subsequent weather balmy or better.

For the same reasons, people from Chicago, Springfield, and other Illinois cities come to Hickory Ridge every year.

Often — and I stress often — two or more Metro East foursomes from both sides of the river frequent Hickory Ridge — because of the way they are welcomed and the challenges of the golf course.

To some individuals and organizations, the major benefit of Hickory Ridge is money. Each month, during May through September, large groups participate in fundraisers for scholarships and charitable organizations. Typically, the Park District gets $30 per player and the scholarship fund, veterans' service organization or other charities gets $75. Recently, a Park District commissioner estimated that the 20 or more outings that occur each summer have contributed at least $1 million to charities during a 34-year span.

Again, take note that many of the players in these events are from out-of-district and thus stop at gas stations and restaurants and more.

This proves Hickory Ridge Public Golf Center is a major asset to the Carbondale Park District, the City of Carbondale and the region. Thus, it should be amply funded so that it is exceptionally well maintained to better present a very positive foot forward.

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Ron Stadt, of Carbondale, is a retired SIUC professor of workforce education and development, author, journal editor, woodworker, gunsmith and shooter. 

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