Golf Course Management

AUG 2019

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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50 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 08.19 program through his employer that includes health checks, fitness classes at the park and a summer weight-loss challenge. He cites recent demographic infor- mation that shows life expectancy in the Ivanhoe neighborhood is 76 years. A short 10-minute drive west to the next zip code over, an area that encompasses the upscale Country Club Plaza shopping area, the life expectancy is nearly 9 years longer. "I think this goes hand-in-hand with cleaning up the community," Harris says. "I say, this is 5 percent sports, 95 percent edu- cation. I'm using sports as a catalyst to raise life expectancy." 'That's in the middle of the 'hood?' e first time Jamar Brown played at Harris Park, he could hardly believe it. "Honestly, I was amazed," he says. "I was in shock. I said to my wife, 'You're not going to believe this.' She knows I play golf here and there. I showed her a picture, and she said, 'at's in the middle of the 'hood?' Yes. Yes, it is." Brown is a youth basketball coach, which is how he crossed paths with Harris. Harris noticed Brown had a set of golf clubs and invited him to Harris Park. Brown isn't from Ivanhoe, but he did grow up nearby. "I was always in that (Ivanhoe) neigh- borhood," says Brown, 39. "I had been down there quite a bit. I remember it was pretty run down. It was rough. ere wasn't a lot of violence. It wasn't too out of control, but it was pretty rough. But Mr. Harris did a lot to it. He put a lot into it, and everybody is more respectful toward it." Maybe a bit too respectful. Before the course was built, Harris made it plain that everybody was welcome on the west side, on the basketball court and the park and the miniature golf course. But the east side, where his old childhood home once stood, was another matter. "In a way, I was my own worst enemy," he says. "I used to not allow anyone on this side of the street. Out of respect for me, they're still a little … hesitant … to come on this side of the street. ey're still fol- lowing the rules. But in a way it's good, be- cause we don't want to have these kids up here by themselves, with golf clubs and balls unsuper vised. I really need to be up here super vising." But if an adult happens to be passing through and stumbles upon Harris Park, notices the beautiful green space and the course and just happens to have a set of sticks in the trunk? "Great," Harris says. "Come on. Play. I encourage it." A dream come true ere's no telling what's next for Harris Park, once Phase II is complete and the First Tee folks start holding more events there. Did Harris mention the clubhouse? ere's still a house standing — not his childhood one — and part of Phase II includes gutting that house and turning it into a clubhouse for educational efforts. Harris is transitioning to a part-time job with Truman Medical Center so he can spend more time at the activity center, "So people know that every ounce of my work is going into this," he says. "I had to let my job go. But there's a whole other level of beauti- fication we can go to." Standing on the course's high point, overlooking the entire track, Harris sweeps his eyes over all he has built. From here, he can see his course; the barren land where his boyhood home stood; the park, playground and basketball court across the street. "is is my favorite part on the whole course," he says. "I think about Mission Hills, and it was just beautiful to me. And to stand here now, to have something like that, it's like everything I ever dreamed came true." And yet … His gaze sweeps north, to the one lot on the block he does not own. Like so many of the tracts just a few blocks away, in any direction, that more resemble the blighted Ivanhoe of Harris' youth, that lone lot north of the golf course is unkempt. It's over- grown, scrubby … a stark contrast to the manicured course to its south. From here, Harris can see it all, Ivan- hoe's past, present and future. To his right, a basketball game is being played on the basketball court he built to start this whole project. Ahead is his golf course, and the site of his childhood. To his left, beyond a stand of trees, is a row of obviously new developments: lovely, freshly painted homes that have sprung up abutting, unbelievably, a golf course in the middle of one of the worst neighborhoods in Kansas City. After a short reverie, Harris glances be- hind him, at the undeveloped lot. He ges- tures to the unmarked but obvious property line, indicating left and right — but also up. "I'd like to put a leaderboard here," Har- ris says. "I want a nice leaderboard … " Andrew Hartsock is GCM 's managing editor. Neighbors sweat through a summer fitness program held at Harris Park. Photo by Chris Harris

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