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Posted by Dave on Monday, July 18, 2011

The Decision

In 1985, my uncle made a decision.  In the years since, that decision has been viewed in many different lights by many different people in my family.  Adjectives to describe the decision have, at one time or another, varied widely in tone and connotation. 

An ad in the Chicago Tribune that caught his eye proclaimed “Come for your free weekend at the French Lick Villas!”  After three days, two nights, one sales pitch and a happy girlfriend on his arm, my then 27-year-old uncle was hooked.  A decision was imminent; a decision that turned out to be much more important than he ever could have realized when he signed on the dotted line. 

Because of that decision, my family has been visiting French Lick for over 25 years.  In my formative years, the week we spent in the small town served as a marker for the midpoint of the summer; a week that I could get away from the city and explore the rolling, expansive hills of southern Indiana; a place that, at the time, had many buildings and natural areas that had fallen in to disrepair, making exploration for me and whichever best friend I had invited that year so much more exciting.  And, of course, there was also an arcade that saw its fair share of use.

The adults in my family would use the week in the Villas as a time to relax.  They would play cards, read books, do jigsaw puzzles, and make feasts large enough to put an elephant to sleep.  We would traverse down the hill from our Villa and use a shortcut through the woods to enjoy all the amenities the French Lick Springs Resort had to offer.  Of all the facilities, the family most enjoyed the two large swimming pools situated mere yards from the world famous Pluto Spring (questionable planning from an odor diffusion standpoint, if you ask me). 

For me, though, French Lick was something different.  In the years of my youth, French Lick was not the investment opportunity that it is today.  There was no casino, no Pete Dye Course, no investors paying to knock down old walls and put up new ones.  French Lick was simple, it was antiquated, and it was hot.  That heat never really got to me, though.  Thank god for that, because it turned out that in order to be prepared properly, my love of golf needed to be placed in a Southern Indiana oven preheated to 100 degrees for four hours (or until skin turned golden brown). 

French Lick was like my own personal golf incubator.  The resort had two courses, then called the Hill Course and the Valley Course, and a short walk across the street brought you to a 36-hole putt-putt course that sat adjacent to a Pluto Corporation factory building.  During the days I would await our rounds at the Valley Course or go to the driving range and attempt to hit it farther than my father.  At night, I would always suggest a round or two at the putt-putt course.  As I got older and my skills progressed, I was finally allowed to play the Hill Course.  I had finally hit golf puberty.  Metaphorically zit-faced and hormonal, I traversed for the first time the hills that Donald Ross sculpted so many years before. 

There was something about it - the course, the family, the game - that meshed together so perfectly for me.  I don’t think I really realized it at the time (I was too busy being a little brat with terrible etiquette), but these were probably some of the most important rounds of golf of my life.  Here I was, a kid who grew up playing outstanding golf courses like Flossmoor and Beverly Country Club, falling in love with the game in French Lick, Indiana on an AstroTurf putt-putt and a dinky little Valley Course.  

Who knew?

In 1985, my uncle made a decision.  Even though the decision was made before I was born, it shaped me in a way that no one could have predicted.  I realize now that in some strange way, French Lick wound up making me who I am today.

And to my uncle, I say: I couldn’t be happier about it.

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