[caption id="attachment_12003" align="alignleft" width="300"]<a href="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2016\/03\/DJI00824.web_.jpg"><img src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2016\/03\/DJI00824.web_-300x225.jpg" alt="DCIM100MEDIA" width="300" height="225" class="size-medium wp-image-12003" \/><\/a> DCIM100MEDIA[\/caption]\r\nLaura Dean Bennett\r\nContributing Writer\r\n\r\nThe Pocahontas County Country Club began its history in 1956, when a group of county businessmen decided that they were tired of driving to Lewisburg every time they wanted to indulge in their favorite pastime. Going all the way to Greenbrier County for a game of golf could easily take an entire day \u2013 and it was expensive.\r\nLocal attorney J. E. Buckley was the first to suggest that he and his golfing friends go in together to build and operate a public course here in Pocahontas County. The first board of directors consisted of J. E. Buckley, Dr. J. U. Colley, A. E. Cooper, M. G. Faulknier, C. R. Richardson, H. L. Sheets, J. W. Smith and G. D. Stemple.\r\nA.E. Cooper served as president of the board from the first meeting until his death in 1981. The club was incorporated, issued stock and set about purchasing a 62 acre section of the Glenna B. Hayes farm along Route 219 on Beard Heights, south of Marlinton.\r\nThe members brought in a golf course engineer from White Sulphur Springs, Mr. Cosby, who had a hand in the design of the course at The Greenbrier. He mapped out a handy nine-hole course \u2013 not too intimidating to the beginner while still plenty challenging for an accomplished golfer.\r\nThe course opened in the Spring of 1957, with an initial roster of 20 members and greens fees were $2 and $3 a day.\r\n[caption id="attachment_12004" align="alignleft" width="300"]<a href="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2016\/03\/Golfers.web_.jpg"><img src="http:\/\/pocahontastimes.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/25\/2016\/03\/Golfers.web_-300x207.jpg" alt="GOLFERS, COMPETITORS AND lifelong friends \u2013 the \u201cwhole\u201d in one \u2013 at Pocahontas County Country Club. L to r: Philip Cain, Harper Nelson, Fred Burns, Jr. and Bill Gay. Photo courtesy of Fred Burns, Jr." width="300" height="207" class="size-medium wp-image-12004" \/><\/a> GOLFERS, COMPETITORS AND lifelong friends \u2013 the \u201cwhole\u201d in one \u2013 at Pocahontas County Country Club. L to r: Philip Cain, Harper Nelson, Fred Burns, Jr. and Bill Gay. Photo courtesy of Fred Burns, Jr.[\/caption]\r\nThe struggle to keep the course open despite limited finances has been ongoing ever since its inception. But club directors are proud to point out that no public funds have ever been used to maintain or operate the PCCC. Their love of the game has made it all worthwhile. \u00a0\r\nAnd PCCC was more than just a sporting club. For decades, it was a hub of social life in Marlinton, as well. Pamela Dilley Sharpes, retired Pocahontas County High School biology teacher, remembers that when she was in high school the 15-piece Marlinton High School Dance band, under the direction of Sam Brill, played for lots of dances, sponsored by the golf club.\r\n\u201cI played baritone saxophone in the marching band and the dance band,\u201d Sharpes said.\u00a0 \u201cWe had such a good time. The PCCC dances were held in the gym at the old high school. They were open to the public and were well-attended. And they were really lovely events.\u201d\r\nFred Burns, Jr., president of Burns Motor Freight, started playing the PCCC course right out of college. Living in Marlinton, Burns played regularly. Several of his Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers and friends made an annual or biannual trip to visit him and play the course.\r\n\u201cI got out of the army in 1959 and as soon as I came home, I started to play up at PCCC. It was a little rough back then, but we really had fun,\u201d he said with a smile.\r\nIt was through those friendships and visits that the Crawdad Invitational came to be.\r\n\u201cI\u2019ll tell you where the title, Crawdad Invitational, comes from,\u201d Burn said.\r\n\u201cBack in the 60s, there were\u00a0 several low-lying areas on the course that stayed pretty wet, and we had quite a thriving population of crawdads.\u201d\u00a0\r\n\u201cMy Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers from WVU started coming here to visit - we\u2019d have these big get-togethers. We\u2019d play golf one day up at Snowshoe and the next down here in Marlinton. We were a big bunch - there were about 26 of us.\u00a0\r\n\u201cWell, those crawdads would make these mounds that they would crawl out of and they\u2019d always be crawling out while we were golfing. Not only did they have a habit of crossing the course in the middle of play, but every once in a while, a ball would land right in one of these mounds and I can tell you, it was the dickens of a thing to shoot from,\u201d Burns said laughing.\r\nSo, Paul Farmer got to calling our golf weekends, the \u201cCrawdad Invitationals.\u201d\u00a0\r\nA close friend of Reid Mitchell, the two having served together in Korea, Farmer was a lifelong, frequent visitor to Marlinton. He had many connections here, being a WVU alumnus and fraternity brother with Burns, Kenneth Ervine and family friends of the Dr. Roland Sharp family.\r\nOver the years, Farmer came to visit his fraternity brothers in Marlinton quite often.\r\nAnother of Farmer\u2019s fraternity brothers, Jim Davis, formerly of Marlinton and now of Bettendorf, Iowa, said Farmer always had trouble with the old barn that used to stand as an unusually large obstacle on the fourth fairway. And he wasn\u2019t the only one to talk about the barn.\r\nBoard member Gary Sharp laughed when I ask him about the barn.\r\n\u201cOh, my, that barn!\u201d he said. \u201cOh yeah, we had a lot of fun with that barn!\r\n\u201cYou know the expression about being such a bad shot, you can\u2019t hit the side of a barn door? Well, there was an old barn that sat right in the middle of the fairway and you needed to be such a good shot that you didn\u2019t hit the side of that barn.\r\n\u201cWhen a ball would hit the doors of that barn, it made a terrible sound!\u201d Sharp said, laughing. \u201cIt got so that we\u2019d just go down there and open the doors and try to shoot straight through. Of course, if your shot fell short and your ball landed inside the barn, that wasn\u2019t good either \u2013 it was pretty dark in there and could be tricky getting out.\r\n\u201cOf course, you could always try a bank shot off the doors or a rafter inside the barn, but it would take a real expert player, or a very lucky one, to pull that off.\u201d\u00a0\r\nSharp started playing golf when he was 19 years old.\r\n\u201cI was an athlete in high school, you know, I played lots of sports and thought I could do anything,\u201d he said.\u00a0 \u201cWhen I took up golf, I figured, \u2018how hard can this be?\u2019 One day, I was playing alone on the PCCC course. This was when a nice lady named Mrs. Jeb Ervin was running the clubhouse. She came along in a cart and stopped and watched me a minute then asked if I\u2019d like to play for a dime a hole. Well, I didn\u2019t like to take advantage of the lady, I mean, she had to be in her 70s, but I also didn\u2019t want to be rude, so I accepted the bet. Well, I ended up owing her 70 cents that day and I have a feeling she was taking it easy on me. So much for being an athlete - I was snookered by a nice little old lady!\u201d\r\nApparently, the course has always attracted a lot of high rollers.\r\n\u201cWe still play for a dime a hole,\u201d Sharp said. \u201cOh, yeah, I\u2019ve lost a lot of dimes up there!\u201d\r\nSharp had a devastating encounter with his table saw a couple of years ago that nearly cost him the use of his hand. He said his first two thoughts were, \u201cOh no, I\u2019ll never be able to hold a golf club again\u201d and then, \u201cOh, no, I\u2019ll never play the guitar again either!\u201d\r\nFortunately, with lots of physical therapy and special ordered custom-fitted clubs, Sharp is still out there swinging.\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s a beautiful course,\u201d he said. \u201cI came from Richmond where there are some nice courses, but our little nine- hole course is every bit as nice. We\u2019ve got everybody from school kids, farmers, business people and retirees up there enjoying themselves. Men and women, young and old, good players and beginners - everybody\u2019s welcome! It\u2019s an important resource for our county and we\u2019ve got to appreciate it. That\u2019s why I\u2019ve become a board member. I want to do what I can to help keep it going!\u201d\r\nWhile there are no crayfish problems these days, the course is still a place for fun and friendship.\r\n\u201cEverybody has fun playing the PCCC course,\u201d Burns said. \u201cIt\u2019s just a really relaxing place to be.\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve always found that playing golf has been a great way to mix business and pleasure. A lot of productive meetings take place out on a golf course. Whenever I had business associates come in from out of town, I\u2019d take them out on the Pocahontas County Country Club course. I\u2019ve made a lot of deals out on that course!\r\n\u201cI have brought business associates in here since the sixties and they are always amazed that a small town has a facility this good. It\u2019s rare, you know, for a town our size to have a course this good.\r\n\u201cPCCC, more than any other course I\u2019ve ever played, is all about friendship and companionship. You can walk it or drive it, either way, it\u2019s a nice course. People really should come on out and try it. Don\u2019t worry about being good enough to play. Don\u2019t take it so seriously. Just play and have fun.\r\n\u201cWe are operating on a really tight budget. And, except for one paid employee, our course superintendent, Junior Bennett, the course is totally run by our members and volunteers.\u201d\r\n\u201cMy wife and I visit Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, quite often and I always try to get in a little golf when we\u2019re there.\u201d\r\n\u201cLast year I was talking to someone who was pretty knowledgeable about course maintenance costs and he told me that the average annual operation costs for an eighteen-hole course are about $1.3 million. Now, we have a nine-hole course here, so fifty percent of that eighteen-hole average cost would be about $650,000. And here we are, operating PCCC on an annual budget of a little over $50,000! I think that speaks pretty highly for the hard work our volunteers put in here. We just couldn\u2019t make it without them!\u201d\r\nA golf course up in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia may have more than just financial differences from those in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. For instance, there\u2019s the occasional incursion of livestock and wildlife on our course.\r\nEvery once in while a herd of cattle will get out of Jack Gay\u2019s field, which borders the course, and come out across the fairway to create some interesting, mobile obstacles.\u00a0\r\nThen there are the ever-present Canada geese, small mammals and frequent deer visits \u2013 even the occasional bear sighting.\r\nBurns remembers \u201cthe day that play came to a halt as we all stood there watching a bear that was across the road in the cornfield next to Dr. Soriano\u2019s place. That bear was in no hurry whatsoever. He was just sitting there on his haunches, grabbing one ear after another, having himself a good old corn feast. Oh yeah, we\u2019ve had some good times on that course!\u201d\r\nPhilip Cain, president of the board, has been a member since the 1970s, and has been the course manager for the last three seasons and will once again manage it this year.\r\n\u201cI started playing golf in the yard at home when I was a kid,\u201d Cain said. \u201cBut I started playing the PCCC course out of high school, so I guess I\u2019ve been playing that course for about fifty years.\u201d\r\nHe said there have been lots of great memories made there.\r\n\u201cMr. Cooper was president for twenty-five years, and he was a real character,\u201d Cain continued. \u201cHe was well-known to have a sometimes adversarial relationship with some of the course regulations. And he\u2019d make so many \u2018adjustments\u2019 to his score that he was darned hard to beat. Well, his sworn enemy was the little pond that used to lie just beyond the green at the first hole\u00a0 -now, Hole #9.\u00a0\r\n\u201cRight, I said there used to be a pond there,\u201d Cain said with a chuckle. \u201cThat\u2019s because Mr. Cooper finally lost one ball too many in that pond and he had it drained!\r\n\u201cI became a member of the club when The First National Bank bought my membership. And it turned out that the golf course was really good for the bank\u2019s business and for my career at the bank.\r\n\u201cWhenever a bank regulator or another banker came over from Charleston, we\u2019d head over to the PCCC and take our meeting on the course. A lot of important decision-makers would come to town and we\u2019d get to know each other during a golf game. It\u2019s a great way to do business and to make friends.\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s also a good way to assess a person\u2019s character,\u201d Cain said. \u201cIf a guy will get mad at a golf ball, he\u2019ll get mad about anything.\u201d\r\nBoard member Doug Rider started playing golf at the age of 11 when he had a job working at the produce stand in the old Amoco station beside the course and next to the original PCCC club house.\u00a0\r\n\u201cI got a job as a caddy - and I was making big money for back then, $1.25 for eighteen holes and they\u2019d buy me a bottle of pop and a candy bar when we stopped at the ninth hole,\u201d Rider remembers. \u201cWhen I was about thirteen, I was mowing the greens with a push mower. One time, I got in trouble with Slim Ervine for mowing too fast.\r\n\u201cI was on the first Pocahontas County High School golf team, and I made it to the state golf tournament. When I went into the service, I was stationed in Germany and I\u2019d taken my golf clubs with me. It was really nice to be able to play with the guys over there.\u201d\r\nRider encourages young people to get involved as golf is a good way to meet people and to gain confidence. His son, Justin, also a board member, followed in his father\u2019s footsteps and started playing golf at the PCCC when he was 10 years old.\r\nThe Riders are a three-generation golfing family. Justin\u2019s seven year old daughter Erin, who already has her own clubs, has joined the game and they are playing the course together.\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s all about fellowship and friendship at the PCCC,\u201d Rider said. \u201cI have a lot of memories from that course.\u201d\r\nPCCC board member John Mutscheller agrees that the PCCC golf course is a wonderful part of the community.\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re lucky to have it,\u201d he said. \u201cI\u2019ve been a member for ten years. I started playing there kind of by a fluke. Philip Cain and Bill Gay were short a player during a tournament and asked if I\u2019d fill in.\u201d\r\n\u201cIt had been twenty years since I\u2019d played golf. I was rusty, but I really enjoyed it and that really started me back with golf again.\u201d\r\nMutscheller says that many people don\u2019t realize that PCCC is a public course.\r\n\u201cThe words \u2018country club\u2019 are misunderstood. That\u2019s just a name.\u00a0 The course is open to anyone. We welcome everyone. This is the friendliest course I\u2019ve ever played. It\u2019s a really relaxing course to play and a beginner can have a good time on it.\r\n\u201cThe club is full of friendly people who are happy to answer questions or even play a round with you and give you some tips. You don\u2019t find that just everywhere.\u201d\r\nAfter A. E. Cooper\u2019s 25 years at the helm, Kenneth Ervine was named president and remained in the position for the next 25 years. He and his wife, Joan, also ran the pro shop for about 16 years. There\u2019s not much about the history of PCCC that Ervine doesn\u2019t know.\r\nHe remembers when the first two golf carts arrived on the course.\r\n\u201cIt was about 1963 and Dr. Rexrode and Myrl \u201cSlim\u201d Ervine started driving the course in their golf carts,\u201d Ervine said. \u201cIt was quite the thing.\r\n\u201cI\u2019ve done about every job there is on this course. It\u2019s a great place to relax and meet people. I\u2019d just like to see a whole lot of new people up here enjoying it. \u201c\u00a0\r\nErvine likes to tell a story about a bear that had been spotted climbing up and lounging around in a couple of trees near the woods on the second fairway.\u00a0\r\n\u201cHe seemed partial to a couple of big old trees at the edge of the woods. There was a cherry tree and when the hickory nuts came on in the fall, he\u2019d climb up in that hickory tree and snack on hickory nuts. All the regulars knew to try to catch a glimpse of the bear up in those trees. Well, one Sunday Harry McCloud and Jimmy Cutlip were up there, and Jimmy hit a ball that rolled up into the woods under those trees. While Jimmy was looking for his ball, Harry couldn\u2019t resist, and he let loose with a big old bear growl and he said, Jimmy just froze. He thought that bear was gonna get him!\u201d Ervine laughed.\u00a0\r\nLongtime member Joann Eddy told me that spring is a good time to see bears around the course.\u00a0\r\n\u201cTwo years ago I got to see a mama bear and her two cubs,\u201d Eddy said.\u00a0 \u201cWe were playing over by Jack Gay\u2019s field and you know he usually has Black Angus in that field. I looked over there and something looked different about the cows. I said, \u2018Those cows sure have funny ears!\u2019 Well, you know they weren\u2019t cows, it was that mama bear and her cubs.\u201d\r\nEddy is a passionate golfer who didn\u2019t take up the game until her children reached an age when they no longer needed a babysitter. Her husband, Dick, never really had any interest in golf, that is until he was \u201cordered\u201d to take it up.\r\nIn 1967, Dick Eddy was riding his motorcycle up Ninth Street in Marlinton and was hit by a school bus. He suffered serious and extensive injuries that required a long convalescence and physical therapy. His doctor was Dr. Douglas Bowers, who was the West Virginia University football team\u2019s doctor. He told Dick that he needed to start playing golf if he wanted to get back full use of his shoulder. Dick said, \u201cno way.\u201d\r\n\u201cI don\u2019t chase some stupid little ball around a cow pasture,\u201d he declared.\r\nBut he did, and wouldn\u2019t you know it? Golfing did the trick. His shoulder got better and the course made another golf convert.\r\n\u201cOh, golf is good for everybody,\u201d Eddy exclaimed. \u201cIt\u2019s good for kids - learning the etiquette of the game and practicing courtesy and good sportsmanship is just real good for them.\u201d\r\nHer son, David, was introduced to golf at an early age. He even caddied for the famous Adolph Cooper back in the day. \u201cHe earned 25 cents for eighteen holes!\u201d she said.\r\nEddy said Thursday mornings is the time for newcomers to come up to the course when the so-called \u201cSenior League\u201d plays.\r\n\u00a0\u201cDon\u2019t be shy,\u201d she said.\u00a0 \u201cJust come on up and we\u2019ll fix you up with a partner and some clubs. And you don\u2019t have to be a senior to join us.\u201d\r\nWhat would Eddy say to someone who might want to learn to play golf, but is afraid of looking stupid?\r\n\u201cI\u2019d say, you mean you\u2019ve never looked stupid before? Aww, you just can\u2019t worry about that. We all started out not knowing how to play. Just keep playing until you get better at it. And no one up at PCCC will give you a hard time. We welcome everyone- we\u2019d be glad to have you! We need some new golfers up there.\u201d\r\nAnd you don\u2019t have to be a member to play. Norris Long just plays when he can. He got his first set of clubs years ago as a Christmas gift and has loved golf all his life.\r\nHe, too, used golf to help himself back from a serious injury from a car accident.\r\n\u201cMy doctor didn\u2019t prescribe it, but I knew that golfing would help me get my arm back in shape,\u201d Long said.\u00a0 \u201cAnd I was right \u2013 it did help.\u201d\u00a0\r\nA member since the 1960s, Harper Nelson has seen a lot of changes up at the PCCC golf course. But with all the rearranging and improvements, one thing has never changed.\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s got such a relaxed, friendly atmosphere,\u201d Nelson said.\u00a0 \u201cEverybody up there is just nice and friendly. When you play at PCCC, it\u2019s so leisurely that it\u2019s almost like having your own private course.\u201d\r\nLarry Burns has always been Nelson\u2019s golf partner, and Nelson says he\u2019s a most understanding partner.\r\n\u201cOne evening we were playing late and it started to get dark on us,\u201d Nelson recalled.\u00a0 \u201cI hit what I thought was a bad shot and thought the ball probably landed nowhere near the green, so I just dropped another ball and took another shot. Well, we got up on the green and there were three balls sitting there.\r\n\u201cOld Larry just says, \u2018Well, would you look at that! Someone up ahead of us must have left a ball!\u2019\r\nFor many years, Pocahontas County High School has had a very competitive golf team that is fortunate to be able to use PCCC as its home course. They get valuable experience at PCCC and sometimes on Snowshoe\u2019s Raven course and have been quite successful, making it all the way to the state championships \u2013 once taking sixth place in the state.\r\nPCCC even welcomes a group of middle schoolers, organized by Jean Srodes, who, for the last few years, have played the course once or twice a week during the school year.\r\n\u201cNot only are they having a wonderful time and learning the game of golf, these kids are being exposed to something that will stand them in good stead later in life,\u201d Srodes said. \u201cWe are so lucky to have the PCCC course right here, so close to the middle school.\u201d\r\nAlthough Charlie Bubnis is a relatively new member (he and his wife, Michelle moved here a few years ago from Austin, Texas), he has taken to the golf course like a duck to water. He and Michelle became members about three years ago. This year Bubnis is on the board of directors.\r\nHe is also in charge of the very active group of volunteers who really run things in the clubhouse.\r\nBurns says that the club couldn\u2019t get along without them.\r\n\u201cWe just don\u2019t have the funds to pay staff to do the check-ins in the clubhouse,\u201d Burns said. \u201cLike a lot of the work that it takes to keep the golf course going, it\u2019s got to be done by those who love the course and will donate their time to keeping it going.\u201d\r\nAnd Bubnis says the course wouldn\u2019t be here today if not for board president Philip Cain.\u00a0\r\n\u201cWe have a beautiful, scenic public course here,\u201d Bubnis said. \u201cAnd anybody who wants to get to know the golfers just needs to stop by The Dirt Bean any morning. There\u2019s a coffee group that meets every weekday at the Dirt Bean in Marlinton around 9 a.m. Most of them are golfers and some are volunteer at the course. Stop by and make some friends.\r\n\u201cAt one of our tournaments,\u201d Bubnis said, \u201ca local car dealer was giving away a new car if someone got a hole in one at the par 3 on #10. The day before the tournament one of our volunteers went to that hole to practice and his first swing produced a hole in one\u00a0 - one day too early!\u201d\r\nBubnis wants everyone to feel welcome to just come for a visit.\r\n\u201cCome visit anytime to check out the club house,\u201d he said. \u201c If we\u2019re not busy, you may even be able to take a golf cart out for a tour of the course.\u201d\r\nAnd he stresses that the greens fees are very reasonable \u2013 only $19.00 for 18 holes.\u00a0\r\n\u201cWe have all ages playing, from elementary school to a few ladies and gentleman in there mid-eighties. We also have players of all abilities - from a first time golfer to a local businessman who plays in the West Virginia State amateur championship every year. And we have a lot of visitors from out of town or out of state who play a round of golf at our course and rave about the scenery, the layout of the course and how they really enjoyed playing it.\r\n\u201cThis course is a real jewel in the middle of our community and it needs the community\u2019s support to keep it open,\u201d Bubnis said. \u201cWe\u2019re looking for people to come out and play, to become members and to volunteer. If you have any questions, please call me at 304-799-0883.\u201d\r\nThe PCCC hosts Coach Anderson and his Pocahontas County High School Golf Team all year for free and hosts the team during tournament play against other high schools, as well. Volunteers also help provide food and beverages for the teams.\r\nBurns said the reason he golfs has mostly been for companionship and friendship.\r\n\u201cBill Gay and I had a solid friendship,\u201d he said. \u00a0\u201cBill was a right-handed golfer, but he lost the use of his right hand when he was wounded in Viet Nam. But that didn\u2019t stop him. He learned to golf left-handed, and he became the best left-handed golfer in the country.\r\n\u201cBill inspired me to play. I miss him, and we talk about him every Sunday when we are playing. He and I would go down south and play in the winter. Some days it was a struggle for him to get going, but we played 18 holes every day.\u201d\r\nIn years to come, the high school team will, no doubt, look back and recall the beginnings of lifelong friendships forged on this course.