Mirimichi reopens for 2017 season with St. Jude celebration

Mirimichi reopens for 2017 season with St. Jude celebration
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - How do you break a leg playing golf? It can be done.

As Campbell Clinic Orthopedics "Customer of the Year" in both 2012 (broken neck/car wreck) and 2013 (shattered ankle/freak bike accident), I know a thing or two about fractures. I'll share the story of my college roommate's improbable leg fracture on Hole #10 a little later in this story. It happened at the golf course out in Woodstock a long, long time ago.

For now, let more pleasant images wash over you from that hallowed and exquisitely beautiful terra firma now called Miramichi, a Native American word meaning "place of happy retreat."

It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote, "In the spring, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love."

So true! I was young once. But golf comes to mind more readily than ever for men of a certain age when the tulips sprout. The Mid-South's blooming trees began budding before Valentine's Day this year. Many of us bogeymen may have had love on our lips for our significant other, but golf was looming somewhere in the back of our minds as blossoms flowered.

Any links lover who gazes at the resplendent images of Mirimichi that accompany this story might sense the first symptoms of golf fever: a flush of desire and a restlessness to at least hit the driving range to see what happens when one swings a club this time around. It's time to tune up your game and re-visit the spectacular golf course that hometown superstar Justin Timberlake recreated eight years ago. Golf Digest calls it the #1 public course in Tennessee.

It reopens for the 2017 season on April 1. But you can play on the eve of opening day, Friday, March 31 in a benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital called "Swing Fore the Kids"

"We are facilitating the event with 100 percent of all greens fees benefiting St. Jude, " saidSteve Conley, Mirimichi's VP of Tournament Sales and Marketing, whose voice you'll recognize from the Memphis radio airwaves. "Fred, the owner, has graciously turned the golf course completely over to St. Jude. All food, beverages and prizes will all be donated to St. Jude as well."

It turns out Mirimchi and St. Jude have some down to earth connections. The 2017 St. Jude Dream Home lawn will feature sod grown at the Mirimichi Turf Farm adjoining the golf course.

The aforementioned Timberlake invested a reported $16 million dollars into the course he grew up playing in the Woodstock community off U.S. 51 between Memphis and Millington. Timberlake's generosity and design excellence united with Mother Nature's magnificence truly dazzle as Miramichi matures. Before JT parted with his golfing masterpiece---the lush grasses, babbling brooks and impressive rock outcroppings---it won high praise for those who cherish Mother Earth and love golf.

Mirimichi became the very first course ever to receive the official Audubon Classic Sanctuary certification, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education. It became the first course in the Americas and one of only ten worldwide to be certified by the Golf Environment Organization for excellence in comprehensive and advanced sustainability.

Timberlake sold Mirimichi to a native Memphian named Fred Edmiaston in 2014. Raised in nearby Frayser, Edmiaston learned to play on the golf course he now owns when it went by a number of names including Woodstock Hills Country Club and Big Creek Golf Course. Since taking the reins, Edmiaston has added 1,800 trees and flowering shrubs to beautify the already gorgeous course.

"This winter, crews have made big changes to Hole #3, creating a 15 foot elevated tee box overlooking a new water feature," Conley said.

Golfers will find new bridges, creeks and other landscaping improvements. Back at the club house, there's new business conference rooms, a huge glassed in patio, an expanded patio arbor and many other improvements.

Since buying the 300 acre course in November 2014, Edmiaston has added a new cart barn next to the clubhouse, new restaurant equipment, introduced an inviting mahogany bar where golfers can relax after the test Mirimichi demands of players of all skill levels. Mirimichi has introduced a $300 a month membership program for avid golfers.

"They can play as much golf as they want whenever they like with no additional fees," Conley said.

But the membership program is limited because Conley says they want to keep the course public so everyone can enjoy it. Conley says 21,000 rounds of golf were played on Mirimichi in nine months of 2016 with 20 percent of those players coming from out of town to experience Mirimichi's magic.

"Mirimichi is more than just a Memphis golf course---it is a kind of sanctuary and true amenity for Memphis," said Conley, who says he gets a good feeling driving through the stately front gate into a wonderland of natural beauty and golfing excellence.

The new owner's connections to the course date back to its founder, Memphis physician Dr. Billy G. Mitchell. The good doctor spent weekdays educating medical students at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences. But Dr. Mitchell spent every other waking hour designing Woodstock Hills Country Club, building it and inviting weekend golf warriors like yours truly to join up.

I played Woodstock regularly in the 1980s (before the arrival of the Birch boys: Joseph III, 1989 and Matthew, 1992) with WMC pals like Assistant News Director Gaylon Reasons, Video Chief Borys Tomaszczuk and FM 100's Tom Prestigiacomo or sportscaster/weatherman/DJ Bob McLain. Rising to the heights of golfing mediocrity, our foursome laughed through most weekends while searching Woodstock Hills' woods for lost balls.

Mitchell could have never imagined the future his dream golf course now enjoys. I am certain that Woodstock Hills' founder would be delighted that a lifelong Memphian now owns his former bean field turned golfing gem. Edmiaston founded a company with his brother Terry called Aircon Corporation, a manufacturer of air pollution control products on Chelsea Ave. in North Memphis. Conley says Edmiaston bought the course partly for sentimental reasons dating back to his first golf lessons. But Conley says it's "a sound business investment with a remarkable potential."

Mirimichi has worked hard to attract golf tournaments and offers some "extras" to keep them coming back to the 7,400 yards of championship play. Conley says Mirimichi is the only Memphis course to offer the state of the art VISAGE GPS System which features a video screen in every golf cart.

"There are 38 zones on the golf course and each one can be programmed to show different messages for any event," Conley said.

Video can appear on the golf cart screens, along with sponsor logos and messaging tailored by the organization hosting a Mirimichi outing. In addition, Conley says the course has a partnership with Bud Davis Cadillac. Large tournaments feature a free hole in one contest, he said.

Conley says JT plays his hometown course whenever he has time. The singer's mother, Lynn Harless, designed the famous Mirimichi patio, which features a deck, arbor bar and double fireplace.

"It is one of the most spectacular views in Memphis and offers a fabulous venue for after-play gatherings, parties and weddings," Conley said.

None of that was around in the early 1980s --- before JT even dreamed of becoming a "New Mouseketeer." My first college roommate at CBU, Mark Bromirski of Hoosick Falls, NY was by far the most talented golfer among our college crowd. Now as then, #10 had an elevated tee box. On the fateful day of the golf course leg fracture, "Bromo" hit a stone cold frozen rope from the elevated tee down the middle of Woodstock Hills' #10. It was his last swing that summer. As his golf cart zoomed down the hill, someone failed to notice the area had been roped off. The rope got caught by a front wheel and started spooling up on the cart's axle. It's hard to imagine, but a steel stake that had been planted in the ground to hold up the rope shot like an arrow toward Bromo's leg. Bromo spent the summer explaining how it happened at least 10,000 times.

None of us would have ever dreamed that a kid from the nearby Shelby Forest area would turn this place into a goffer mecca. This video shows a young JT sharing his love for the game on the very course he later redesigned and then basically gave as a gift to Mid-South golf enthusiasts.

If you'd like to play in "Swing Fore the Kids" for St. Jude on March 31st, give Steve Conley a call at (901) 259-3800 or email.

"The atmosphere at this event will be exciting," Conley said, with the aforementioned Bud Davis Cadillac Hole in One prize and food by Charles Vergos' Rendezvous. If I see you at the tournament and tell you to "break a leg" out on the fantastic course, you'll know I mean, right?

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.