Schuckman: Little People's hits significant milestone with 40th anniversary

Posted: Jun. 17, 2013 10:05 am Updated: Jul. 29, 2013 10:52 am

The golfer ran off the green, tears streaming down his cheeks, and buried his head into his dad's shoulder.

He wanted solace.

He found very little at first.

All the Pepsi Titan Little People's Golf Championships participant wanted was a birdie. Where he finished in the standings didn't really matter.

Only a birdie would do.

"My big brother got one when he played," the kid said. "And I want to be as good as him."

The dad chuckled and knew exactly what to say.

"Did you know it took your brother two years to get a par here?" the dad said. "You got two of those today."

The tears magically stopped.

"Really?" the kid questioned.

The dad nodded his head.

That elicited a smile and a request.

"Can we play some more?" the young golfer asked. "I still want to get a birdie."

And off they went to try.

That scene took place at the Knights of Columbus par-3 course 13 years ago and remains one of the lasting memories from all of the years spent covering the LPGC.

I don't remember the names, and it's doubtful I would recognize the faces theses days. That snapshot, however, sticks with me because it encapsulizes what the LPGC is all about.

That's the love of the game.

Nan Ryan started the event in 1974 to promote the sport and give junior golfers an avenue to compete and improve. She still trumpets those things today. Anyone who sees her interact with the golfers knows that.

Ryan never promoted winning at all costs. She encouraged growth, both on the course and away from it. Academics have always been as important as birdies and bogeys.

So has community service, which is why the LPGC honors a golfer each year with the "Spirit of Giving" award and honors its volunteers for their commitment and dedication each year.

That brings people back.

The LPGC is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week with an increase in participants from a year ago despite the continuing growth of junior golf.

This week alone, the American Junior Golf Association is sponsoring seven tournaments in six states. There are unsanctioned tournaments around the country as well.

Still, the LPGC draws participants from more than 20 states and several foreign countries because of the reputation for hospitality, competition and fun it has built.

It's why Todd Kolb is back. Now a PGA pro who runs a golf academy in Sioux Falls, S.D., Kolb and his sister, Stacey, played in the LPGC in the mid-1980s, and he is bringing nine golfers from his academy to participate this year.

There are countless others who have returned over the years to relive their memories and invest in a tournament that invested so much in the sport's future.

In recent years, the event's organizers have faced questions about how long it can survive and the answer is certainly clear.

The LPGC has its niche and there is no reason to think another 40 years is impossible.