William Powell’s Dream Course

The Wall Street Journal has a terrific story on William Powell, a 91 year old whose love of golf led him to build his own course:

… one thing differentiates Clearview not just from its neighbors, but from every other course in the U.S. It was designed and built and continues to be owned by an African-American, William Powell. When I arrived for a visit recently, Mr. Powell, 91 years old, was sitting in a golf cart talking to friends beneath the maple trees near the clubhouse. Earlier that morning he had done some mowing on a tractor.

An accomplished player in his youth, Powell faced racial discrimination and indignities in his efforts to play the game he loved. Upon his return from from World War II—and having been denied GI Bill benefits, he decided to build a course where he could play:

In 1946, Mr. Powell bought a derelict dairy farm with the financial backing of two African-American doctors from Canton and set to work on his field of dreams. “I wanted a place where I could play and anyone could play, open to all, without regard to race, creed or color,” he said.

Most of the back-breaking work at the course was done by hand. He cleared the pastures of chest-high brush, dug up fence posts and hauled away stones in wheelbarrows. When it came time to plant the fairways, he sowed the seeds by walking up and down the would-be fairways.

He finished the first nine after two years of labor, all the while supporting his young family with a night-shift job at the nearby Timken ball-bearing plant.

By 1978, he had expanded the course to 18 holes.

The thing I love most about this story is that it’s a classic American success story. Faced with many obstacles, Powell succeeded through intelligence, hard work and dedication. He didn’t make excuses for why he couldn’t succeed. He didn’t stand around waiting for a government handout. He succeeded in spite of enormous obstacles. Powell in many ways represents the complete opposite of the direction our society seems to be headed, with all of the talk of income redistribution and “spreading the wealth around.”

Building a golf course by hand? Who would even dream of doing such a thing? Only a person of enormous character.

I’m putting Clearview on my list of must-plays.

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