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September 27, 2005 > Pink Flamingo Pee Wee Golf Tournament

Pink Flamingo Pee Wee Golf Tournament

by Natalia Smothers

Just getting the ball in the hole gives most golf lovers a lot of satisfaction. Combine that feeling with the excitement of a circus and an amusement park, and you capture the spirit of Pink Flamingo Pee Wee Golf Tournament. It happens only in Niles on Sunday, Oct. 2 from noon to 4 p.m.

"When you hit the right hole, something funny usually happens," said Matthew Isola, 10, who has participated in the Pink Flamingo Golf Tournament every year since its inception in 1998. "Either music starts to play or something jumps at you. Last year there was a cool Bullet Hole with many obstacles along a 'bloody' trail. At the end, the guy would fire a shot in the air when you got the ball in the correct hole. I would say the tournament is the most fun event of the year. It beats Halloween by far!"

Similar enthusiasm is shared by the grown-ups. Out of the nearly 200 players every year, about half are adults. Plus, there are parents and friends who come to cheer the golfers, many of whom are from outside Niles. For example, often you can see the Red Hat Ladies and other fun groups from the Tri-City area.

"I am a golf fanatic, and I never miss the Pink Flamingo Tournament," said local painter Barry Jennings. "There are some challenging holes out there that attract a gallery of spectators. For example, the Holy Holy Holy Hole and Button Hole had tricky ramps last year."

"We do recognize the golfing ability of the players and give one of the prizes for the best golf score," said Julianne Pagan, Niles resident, who with her neighbor, Laurie Manuel, dreamed up this event eight years ago.
"However, we've always emphasized the wacky and zany nature of the event. We want our hosts and guests to shed their seriousness and enjoy a fun game. We say it is OK to put a pink flamingo or another tacky creature on the front lawn for a day. I become a kid myself getting my wacky clothes out and competing for the best dressed golfer prize. A couple of years ago, my 81-year-old father won in the most outrageous costume competition."

Every year, different families and businesses in the Niles district volunteer to design and host the nine holes of the miniature golf game. Over the years, such local businesses as Alternative Mortgage, Corrie Glass, Tyme for Tea, Essanay Studios and The Nile Cafˇ have showcased their creativity to the public. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Niles Main Street Association, a nonprofit community organization devoted to historic preservation and economic well being of the district. Many local families have been members of this association at one time or another.

The family of Marie Blomquist just moved to the Niles district a year and a half ago. She was pleasantly surprised by the warm feel in the neighborhood.

"I often see my neighbors sitting on the porch, and I talk to them," said Marie. "This would be unthinkable in many suburban areas in California. The Pink Flamingo Golf Tournament last year was the first for us and helped us learn about our neighbors and make friends.

The last traditional stop in the game is the Watering Hole, where our family had a chance to have a drink and introduce ourselves. My 8-year-old daughter Madison was really excited to receive the prize for our hole design which we constructed out of 30 Lego sets. This nice experience inspired me to try woodcarving for the first time in my life. I've already prepared 13 'tombstones' for our Pirate Hole this year."

Last year's tournament also was the first for the Niles Elementary School. Matthew Isola's dad, Matt, helped teachers and kids design the hole on the school ramp, The Teacher Hole, and shared some tricks and surprises.

This year players will have an opportunity to explore the Hole-y Matrimony, the Hurray Hole-yWood and some other themed play zones around Niles.

"I think the Niles district still holds the creative spirit of the Bronco Billy and Charlie Chaplin's days," said Nancy Haylock, one of the event organizers for the Niles Main Street Association. "Please come and join us for an afternoon of golfing fun and a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood."

Tickets are available on the day of the tournament at The Nile Cafˇ, 121 "I" Street. Every hole has enough putters and balls for players. Cost is $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12 and free for toddlers. For more information call Julianne (510) 794-9452 or Nancy at (510) 795-8670.

Pink Flamingo Pee Wee Golf Tournament
Sunday, Oct. 2
Noon - 4 p.m.
The Nile Café
121 "I" Street, Niles
(510) 795-8670

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