I always thought that if golf was a contact sport it would be more interesting and exciting. And I don’t mean contact golf the way Tiger Woods’ ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, interpreted it when she clobbered her then husband with a nine-iron upon discovering his serial cheating habits.
Charles Duarte, who shares culinary chores at Halftime Sports Bar & Grill on South 8th Street with Joe Kelley, told me the other day that he’s a participant in a game called “footgolf” that has recently been introduced to the Fernandina Beach Golf Course.
According to Charles the game is played the same as golf, except players use a soccer ball instead of a golf ball, and the ball is kicked rather than struck with a club, with players working towards a 21-inch hole in place of the usual golf cup. Like regular golf, the player who plays the nine or 18 holes with the fewest shots wins.
Because soccer balls don’t travel as far as golf balls, footgolf is played on holes shorter than those used for regular golf. The game is also quicker to play and doesn’t require expensive equipment.
The game was created in The Netherlands by Belgian and Dutch players, introduced into the US just four years ago, and my research says it is currently being offered at more than 240 US courses including Fernandina Beach’s public links. The PGA and World Golf Foundation say the growing popularity of footgolf has financially helped many struggling golf courses generate additional income, which should be a plus for our local public links.
The Fernandina Beach course enables footgolfers to play in front of or behind regular golfers prompting some quizzical looks and questions from regular duffers.
Fernandina Beach golf pro Mike Benjamin tells me that the sport has been slow to take off at the local public course but that’s probably because not many people know about it. Price can’t be a factor since it only costs seven bucks to play 18 holes and if you want a cart, add $11. Balls can be rented for three bucks and there little chance of losing something the size of a soccer ball as they don’t sink into ponds and are easily spotted in the rough or woods.
Charles, who, by the way boasts the somewhat unusual combination of a University of Miami BS degree in business as well as a culinary degree he earned later, tells me that equipment used to play the odd sport is not expensive and has some restrictions such as no cleats on shoes and no shorts, but trousers must be worn. A flat cap or driver hat and knee length argyle socks are also part of the foot golf uniform as are collared shirts.
For more information go to the American Footgolf League website at www.AFGL.US or contact the Fernandina Beach Golf Club at 904/310-3175. Or stop by Halftime’s and talk to Charles.
Local Opportunities Go Calling: Laura DiBella, the energetic new director of the Nassau County Board of Economic Development doesn’t waste much time and is constantly in motion reaching out to her vast number of contacts to attract additional economic growth opportunities for our community. As she has said in her presentations to various community groups, she is taking it upon herself to help backfill many of the empty storefronts on our island and her background as a commercial broker is an asset as she knows how these folks work and who they are. For example, the empty movie theatre on South 14th St. sparked an idea with Ms. DiBella, who called a former out-of-state business contact who referred her to a Florida-based owner of several movie dinner-theaters who is now actively investigating this Amelia Island cinematic opportunity. Whether it pans out or not, it is satisfying to know that we are being served by someone who isn’t sitting in her office waiting for businesses to knock on her door but is aggressively promoting the county’s economic charms. I think we can expect a lot of positive news from Ms. DiBella’s office in spite of a small group of whiney, wrong-headed, hand-wringing, grey haired hippies left over from the 1960s who are trying their hardest to turn back the island’s economic and cultural clock.
Don’t Let The Dogs Out? I’m a big fan of Fernandina Beach Parks and Recreation Department Director Nan Voit and her Parks and Recreation Manager Jay Robertson, as these two do an outstanding job of providing community events that appeal to all ages and tastes and do as well as their budget enables them to maintain their areas of responsibility. David Barth, a Gainesville, FL consultant, hired by the city came up with a variety of suggestions that would enable the Voit-Robertson duo to do even more and provided a number of suggestions, some of which make sense but a couple that I think stink. For example providing additional funds for upkeep and sprucing up other areas was spot on, but calling for making Central Park a “true urban” park by putting a dog park in the middle of it and moving the sports fields to another location saying it would improve the property values of houses around it” is just pure baloney. What would improve the property values of the houses around the park is the home owners maintaining them, not foul smelling, barking packs of dogs located in their midst. The ballparks are one of the charms that make this a Norman Rockwell-like town. Leave them where they are. Barth also said “there’s no standards here.” Yes there are. There’s just no budget. That’s not the fault of Ms. Voit or Mr. Robertson, who are doing all they can with what they have. In addition Barth suggested that the city should invest in local transportation like a trolley. I wonder what he thought those long white bus-like things that say Fernandina Beach Trolley on the side were? Maybe the city should check with trolley owner Ernie Saltmarsh to contract for his trolley service. Good grief, don’t we have any local consultants we can call on?
As Seen On The Today Show: The downtown Fernandina Beach Addison Inn, a Victorian era bed & breakfast, at 614 Ash St, was touted on NBC’s Today Show by Travel & Leisure’s Jacqueline Gifford as a “great beach deal” and as one of the best spots to getaway to for a spring break along with inns in San Diego; Beaufort, NC; St. Simon’s Island, GA; a hotel in Galveston, TX; and a cruise out of Miami. Inn keeper Bob Tidball says a number of folks have called since the unsolicited TV plug appeared, publicity that not only aids the Addison, but Amelia Island overall.
Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire: Amid all the Fire Department controversy at city hall, Fernandina Beach City Manager Joe Gerrity, struggling to save his own job and bowing to intense pressure, announced that he has demoted Fire Chief Jason Higginbotham to the position of chief/fire marshal, whatever that is, and promoted Deputy Chief Peter Bergel to interim chief while the city looks for a new person to run the fire department. The local News-Leader quotes Higginbotham as saying he’s had it with all the accusations that have created what he says is a “hostile work environment” and that he has filed a formal complaint against a fired city human resources manager and two sitting commissioners, but the paper failed to say who he filed the complaint with and what he expects as a result of his complaint to whoever. I suggest that Higginbotham may want to look elsewhere for fires to fight as it appears to me that he has lost favor with just about everybody downtown.
Speaking Of Downtown Nonsense: The News-Leader prints a variety of columns from unpaid contributors as well as verbatim press releases from various sources to fill its twice-a-week pages and it appears that the voices that reside in the head of City Commissioner Pat Gass have joined the ranks of those unpaid writers, as for the second consecutive week the verbose commissioner’s imaginary friends have contributed an opinion column, this time expressing gratitude to the two commissioners who were defeated in the last election for their poor decision making and their efforts to squelch the economic growth of the city. Apparently hard up to fill its pages the News-Leader also printed identical stories on pages 5B and 7B, that consisted mostly of mug shots of a number of cats and dogs. And for you folks who may have been living in a cave the past couple of weeks columnist Dickie Anderson reported on the two week old Concours d’Elegance, a commentary that didn’t contain a single piece of news that hasn’t been described repeatedly in great detail in the News Leader and elsewhere for a month or more. Maybe next week she’ll summarize last year’s Shrimp Festival parade.
Deja Vu All Over Again: How can Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a politician with just two years in the US Senate; a foreign sounding last name; limited experience in state government; whose birthplace is questionable and who earned a Harvard Law School degree; served as editor of the Harvard Law Review and is the son of a mixed race family; who is young, articulate and who nobody ever heard of three years ago, possibly hope to get elected President of the United States? Oh, wait a minute.
Who’s On First? While Iran’s Supreme leader, the crazed and loony Ali Khamenei, was chanting “Death to America” the day after President Barack Obama appealed in a televised speech to the Iranian people to “seize a historic opportunity for a nuclear deal and a better future,” a tone-deaf and oblivious US Secretary of State John Kerry is claiming substantial progress toward an accord. Has anyone told Obama or Kerry that the Iranian people don’t have a voice and those that try to exercise one are arrested, hung from construction cranes on public highways or just disappear. Good grief! We’ve got Abbott & Costello negotiating for us with the future of Israel on the line and a volatile unstable Iranian leadership rolling in the aisles with laughter at a negotiating table that should never have been set. I’m more frightened of these two US clowns than I am of Iran or Russia’s Putin. Raise your hand of you trust the Iranian leadership to abide by anything they say. Yeh, me either.
Speaking Of The Middle East: Naftali Bennett, the son of American immigrants from California, who is now head of Israel’s Jewish Home party reminds us during an appearance on American TV recently that “just a decade ago Iran was not allowed to have one centrifuge, while under the Obama-Kerry deal reportedly being offered to the mullahs they’ll enjoy 6,000-7,000 that they’re allowed to keep spinning.” I’m not sure who is a bigger threat to Israel and world peace — Obama and Kerry or the nutty mullahs.
Dining, Drinking & Dancing: Amelia River Cruises has scheduled two area cruises for Friday evening, May 1, the first full day of the island’s Shrimp Festival, both departing the downtown marina at 8 pm and returning at 10 pm following the sunset and annual fireworks display. Bring your own liquid refreshments and a snack if you want for these two, which are bound to sellout fast. Call 904/261-9972, go to the kiosk in the north parking lot at the downtown marina or online at ameliarivercruises.com. Tim Poynter, Fernandina Beach City Commissioner and downtown owner of North 3rd Street’s Karibo and Timoti’s Seafood Shak restaurants met Thursday with city officials concerning a plan to convert the old Baptist church property at 189 North 5th St downtown into a 24-room loft type lodging facility. North 2nd Street’s Hola Cuban Cafe is hiding Easter eggs around town enabling those who find them them to redeem prizes from Hola and other downtown businesses. Stop by Hola Saturday, April 4, beginning at noon for a list of clues that will lead to those participating businesses and search for the prize-winning eggs.