By JOHN REITMAN
FOR THE COURIER
ARLINGTON — People have been playing golf at Sycamore Springs in Arlington since 1958, and Dot Alexander has been there for just about all of it.
Sixty years after her husband, Merv, and a group of civic-minded men from Arlington built the course as a healthy diversion for the town’s youths, Alexander, 86, still plays there twice a week.
“I’m kind of the matriarch there,” said Alexander.
“I think I’m the only one left from that group that was here from the beginning.”
By the late 1950s, stories about illegal drugs in large metropolitan areas had started to make headlines in the news.
A group of men in town thought a golf course would provide an additional recreational outlet that might help keep kids on the straight and narrow.
That group included a couple of doctors, some local businessmen, and at least one farmer, Alexander said.
In those days, Merv Alexander was a bowling enthusiast and Dot, who was home raising three kids, was involved in civic organizations like the Marvelous Moms Child Conservation League.
“That was the first time we’d heard about drugs,” she said. “These men cared about Arlington a lot. It was our little town, and they wanted to do something for the kids there.”
In the late 1950s, the Alexanders and their three children lived on a farm between Findlay and Arlington. As a farmer, Merv Alexander owned a lot of equipment, and that allowed him to do much of the heavy lifting during the construction process.
“I remember when they had meetings to discuss the golf course,” Alexander said. “My husband cleaned out the land, because he had the equipment. I remember when the golf course was finished, and I asked him what he thought about it, and he said he should have taken out more trees.”
Her introduction to the game was anything but typical.
After construction of the golf course was completed, Alexander’s husband gave her a set of clubs and told her to learn how to play.
“I didn’t know anything about golf, and I was home raising three little ones,” she said.
“My husband said someone needed to represent the family at the golf course, so I learned how to play.”
Until then, Dot Alexander’s only exposure to golf was through the window of her dad’s speeding car when she was a child.
“I was a farm kid. I was always playing basketball or softball; anything with a ball — except golf,” she said.
“These people were wearing knickers, and I asked him what they were doing. He didn’t know much about golf either, but he said he didn’t think girls played it, and if I wanted to I needed to marry a rich man or get a good education.”
She did neither.
Instead, Alexander, who dropped out of school to marry her high school sweetheart because, she said, “that’s what girls did in those days,” took to golf right away, became a player for life and dispelled the notion that the game is only for rich men.
“I’ve never known anyone who has a love for the game like my mother does,” said Merv Alexander Jr. “It keeps her mind sharp.”
Her three kids all worked at the golf course at one time or another, but the game never stuck for any of them, including Merv Jr., now 67.
“I tried it a few times, but I didn’t like it,” he said. “I’d rather work than play golf. I’d rather make money than spend it.”
Still, he admits the game has helped keep his mother young at heart.
“She is very competitive, and she still likes to think she can play and be competitive at her age,” he said. “She is surrounded by like-minded people who love golf, many of whom she has mentored over the years. She likes being around younger women and watching them succeed at the game she loves.”
John Reitman is director of news and education for TurfNet, an Orlando, Florida-based news service for the golf industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.