Scottie, Michael and Frank Brame, appropriately, were the first group to tee off Thursday morning, shortly after the doors opened to the renovated par-3 Bringhurst Golf Course in Alexandria.
The elder Brame and his son and nephew spearheaded a two-year “Save the Brink” effort to renovate the nine-hole course that was built in the 1920s and bills itself as the oldest par-3 course in America.
Mayor Jacques M. Roy and City Councilman Chuck Fowler were among a small group that showed up for the reopening of the 793-yard municipal course at 2822 Masonic Drive. The city-owned course closed after Jamie Trotter gave up the family lease on the course in 2006.
“It’s a wonderful day and perfect weather for those guys to tee off,” said Roy, who said he has played the course only once. “We want to make this part of the SPARC corridor work for the kids and for recreation in general.”
SPARC is the city’s Specially Planned Activity Redevelopment Corridors infrastructure initiative. The golf course sits along Masonic Drive, one of SPARC’s primary focal points.
M2 Management Co., which manages the city’s Links on the Bayou Course off La. Highway 28 West, is managing Bringhurst and providing marshals to supervise play.
The course is open four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and for the first two months there will be free admission. After that, the city will charge a small green fee, said mayoral assistant Ken Juneau.
“I think four days a week is enough and yet won’t get too much use to tear it up because it’s still pretty tender,” Fowler said. “I think this is really going to be an asset to Alexandria.”
Retired banker Henry Blake, 71, was there to savor the occasion.
“I’ve got some muscle and joint problems, so I quit playing for several years,” said Blake, “but here, I think I can come out and swing these short clubs without hurting myself, and I live close by.”
Michael Brame recalled first talking to Roy about renovating the course on Jan. 1, 2008.
“It’s a satisfying endeavor, I can tell you,” he said. “I hope it turns out well (with public participation). I feel it will. It looks good.”
As Scottie Brame approached the second green, he recalled he started playing golf at Bringhurst at age 9 in 1937. He said Virgil Milner, the brother of former LSU halfback player Guy “Cotton” Milner (who played for LSU from 1936-38), was the pro at the course then.
“We used to play for $1 a month,” said the elder Brame, who joined nephew Frank and a few others in manually pulling poana grass from the greens last week to prepare for the course’s opening.
“The greens have never been this smooth,” said Frank Brame, who started playing at Bringhurst in the 1950s. “I hope we can keep them this way.”
Jerrett Watson, course superintendent at the Links, oversees the maintenance work at Bringhurst. He said he receives significant help from Addam Kelly, a local firefighter.
He said he was “absolutely” pleased with the look of the course on opening day.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing for Alexandria,” Watson said. “We get a lot of calls at the Links about it from people interested in it.”
There are artificial grass mats at the tee boxes for optional use, and although some sand traps were removed and several trees were cleared “to get more sunlight and air flow,” said Frank Brame, the design of the greens is unchanged.
There is some discussion, however, about enlarging the course’s smallest green on the 97-yard (third longest) No. 5 hole.
Frank Brame offered one critique midway through his round: “The greens need to be a little faster.”
The Brames collected about $23,000 from a “Friends of Bringhurst” fundraiser, as well as from a few foundations, to launch the project, Scottie Brame said, and the renovation work cost a little more than $70,000.
The Friends of Bringhurst fund has not been used, Scottie Brame said, but will be used for ongoing needs.
“I see the most appeal with this course being with two spectrums of age — the very young and senior citizens,” said the elder Brame. “They have the opportunity to come out for one hour and play golf. Four hours doesn’t appeal to everybody.”