By her own admission, Alex Holm-McDowell isn’t a golfer; nonetheless, Peabody Lakeside Golf Course holds special meaning for her.
“I grew up on the golf course,” she said. “One of my Mom’s favorite stories is when my Dad was still alive, that’s how we would spend time together. He’d put my car seat on the golf cart and I’d sleep while he played golf.”
George Holm likely would have put a club in his daughter’s hands one day and shared his love of the game with her, but it wasn’t to be. Alex was just 2 years old in 1993 when Holm, 32, died from an unexplained illness that December.
Less than two weeks later, 57 friends and family teed up balls on New Year’s Day for the first George Holm Memorial Tournament at the course. Afterward, the crowd adjourned to the American Legion for chili and a raffle.
It was a fitting tribute, as in 1987 Holm was the chief instigator to get a New Year’s Day tournament going at the club. With help from his brother, Richard, Don Lehr, Larry Watts, and others the “First Annual Snoball Golf Tournament” debuted Jan. 1, 1988.
“I think we started playing because we wanted to be able to say we were the first ones to play on the golf course every year,” Don Lehr said.
In its first year as the Holm Memorial, the event raised funds to help Holm’s wife, Alisa, who remarried in 1995 to Brian McDowell, and to create a memorial scholarship for a Peabody-Burns High School graduate.
The ritual has repeated every New Year’s Day since, including Friday, continuing to fund scholarships.
“We don’t go out there to compete, we just go out to have fun,” Richard Holm said. “This is for something else. We don’t even keep score. Whatever happens happens. We never know how many are going to show up, who’s going to show up, we can’t anticipate that.”
Holm said the tournament experience reflects how his brother was around others.
“George got along with everybody,” Holm said. “Whenever somebody needed something, he was there. He was never unhappy, never.”
New Year’s Day weather has always been a wild card. It’s been favorable for golf more years than not, but Lehr smiled as he recalled one of the coldest.
“Anywhere you would hit it it would roll, slide down the hill, and end up in the middle of the frozen pond,” he said. “It didn’t matter where you hit it. You’d walk out on the pond and hit it off the ice. You’d just bounce it over the dam toward the green.
“There were a couple of years we only played two or three holes because it was so cold, but we always played, no matter what.”
Holm-McDowell, a second-year medical student at KU School of Medicine — Wichita, said the tournament is the only time she swings a golf club. She started playing about six years ago, she said.
“My mom told me one year that I needed to do it, it was my dad’s tournament,” she said. “I tried it one year, and I keep coming back, even though I’m atrocious.”
She brought with her this year three fellow med students to share in the celebration.
“It’s like they took all the best parts of golf and melted it down and got rid of all the bad stuff,” Collin Clay said. “You think with golfing that you have to act a certain way, there are certain courtesies like everyone stays quiet. We got out there and it was definitely my kind of deal.”
Playing golf and winning raffle prizes wasn’t Codi Ehrlich’s original plan for the day.
“I actually had plans to go down to Texas today to go to a concert, but I canceled, and look where I’m at,” she said. “I didn’t want to drive.”
So what did Ehrlich do at the golf course?
“I was the driver of the golf cart,” she said. “I didn’t want to drive, but I drove all day anyway.”
Ehrlich said the rookies fit in “a little too well” with tournament veterans.
“We always give each other a hard time, so when we were out there we were giving them a hard time, too,” she said. “They dished it back at us, too.”
“They just made us feel like family from the get go. Just immediately comfortable from the second we started.”
For Clay, Ehrlich, and Desmond Barber, Peabody Lakeside Golf Course was their first encounter with sand greens and brown grass fairways.
“Desmond and I are going to go buy a pasture and we’re going to charge people to come golf on it,” Ehrlich said.
Holm-McDowell said she was glad her friends got a glimpse into a unique part of her and her father’s lives.
“It’s something I talk about quite often, and people just look at me like I’m crazy, because who does that,” she said. “It’s always a fun way to remember him, and support the local community, too. It’s a great way to start the new year.