Michiganians find inventive ways to enjoy winter. This photo provides an example. It was taken at Spring Lake (near Grand Haven, Michigan) on February 12, 1977. The occasion: the seventh annual Polar Ice Cap Golf Tournament!
A “War Against Winter”
“Winter Wages War in [Ottawa] County!” proclaimed the Grand Haven Tribune on January 27, 1977.
This must have seemed true to Ottawa County residents. The winter of 1976-1977 was especially harsh. “Experts foresee this winter as perhaps the worst of the century,” the Tribune reported in that aforementioned January 27th issue. It also noted that the claim was arguable. Nonetheless, four days later, the Grand Haven Tribune ran the headline “Michigan Needs Second Christmas.” This referenced a longing for warmer temperatures, rather than holiday cheer. According to the accompanying article, December 25, 1976 was the last day that temperatures had risen above freezing! In January and February 1977, the Grand Haven Tribune published a number of stories on severe winter storms and bitter cold.
One would imagine that many Ottawa County, Michigan residents had “cabin fever” by mid-February 1977. A “golf game on ice” might thus appeal as a sort of defiant gesture toward Mother Nature. On February 8, 1977, the Grand Haven Tribune quoted the Chamber of Commerce as stating that “interest and response” in the annual Polar Ice Cap Golf Tournament was “tremendous.”
Tee-off time was 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 12. The tournament included men’s and women’s nine hole events and a “Frostbite 18.” The Tribune – reporting on the tournament in its February 14 issue – noted that 135 people participated, with the Frostbite 18 having the largest number of contestants (Unfortunately, the contestants in the photo above have not been identified.). Barry Fidelman (“owner of Fildelman’s Bar in South Haven”) took first place in the Frostbite 18. Fidelman scored a 57, which the Tribune called “a record-breaking score for the history of the tournament.” While Fidelman broke a record, another contestant set one. The Tribune noted that Philip Bareham, a sixteen-year-old resident of Spring Lake, Michigan shot “the only hole-in-one in the history of the Frostbite 18!”
In December 2009, this author contacted Kevin Galbavi of Winterfest, Inc. Galbavi stated that the Polar Ice Cap Golf Tournament had been one of several winter events in the Grand Haven area. He explained that the various events were “pulled together” in 1978 (the year after the photo above was taken) to form a festival. According to Galbavi, Winterfest, Inc. formed the following year, and the Polar Ice Cap Golf Tournament became an annual Winterfest event.
Galbavi noted that the golf tournament is no longer held. He explained that frequent cancellations (due to thin ice) prompted the decision to end the annual event, and thus, the final Polar Ice Cap Golf Tournament was played in 2007. Winterfest itself has continued, however. “It’s bigger and better than it’s ever been!” Galbavi exclaimed.
This year’s Winterfest will be held January 28-31, 2010. For more information, click Winterfest Web site.