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Last updated: Tue. Jul. 29, 2014 - 06:37 am EDT

Golf scramble Saturday will raise money for endowment created to help youngsters take up the game

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Teeing up for kids

HAT: The 18-hold Scramble for Kids Golf Outing will donate all proceeds to the Merkle Memorial Golf Endowment, which will provide grants to help youngsters ages 10-14 learn, play and advance their skills in the game of golf while playing at Sycamore Golf Course near North Manchester. Teams and players still are welcome.

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Saturday (shotgun start); registration opens at 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Sycamore Golf Club, 6002 E. State Road 114, east of North Manchester, about 25 miles west of Fort Wayne.

COST: $60 per player, which includes 18 holes of golf, golf cart, meal and door prizes

INFORMATION: 1-260-982-2279 or www.sycamoregc.com

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Golf was very good to George and Edith Merkle and their family. Now their four children want to share the game with area youngsters.

The Merkles' children — Mary Jane, Marty, George and Gene — have started the Merkle Memorial Golf Endowment to provide funds for boys and girls ages 10 to 14 to learn and play golf at the course their parents founded, Sycamore Golf Club near North Manchester. They hope to raise additional money for the endowment at the Scramble for Kids Golf Outing at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the golf club.

"Our desire is to honor our parents for all that they are and for their contribution to the greater North Manchester area," Gene Merkle said in a telephone interview from his home in Greenville, S.C.

George and Edith opened Sycamore Golf Club on July 4th weekend in 1961, and sold the course in 1974. They died in 1995.

The course has always provided a great place for people of all ages to enjoy the game of golf, Gene Merkle said. Playing golf also includes good exercise and offers the chance to socialize with friends.

"We wanted to try to make that their (parents') impact last as long as we could," he said.

When the endowment is fully funded, students will be able to apply to a selection committee at the Community Foundation of Wabash County for monetary grants to cover their cost of lessons, golf summer camps, tournaments and other golf events at Sycamore Golf Course, his sister, Martha Ann "Marty" Myers of Elkhart, said via email.

Sister Mary Jane Compton lives in Bloomington, and brother George lives in Bluffton. Many Merkle family members will be playing in or assisting with the Scramble for Kids event.

The endowment currently contains nearly $5,000; they need to reach $10,000 before the selection committee can begin approving grants, Myers said. However, some donations can be designated for "immediate needs," and those funds can be distributed as grants right away.

"I think golf is really struggling" to attract young and other players, said Kent Workman of Peru, an avid golfer who organized a Golf-a-thon fundraiser July 17 at Sycamore Golf Club to benefit the Merkle Endowment.

As he plays area courses in the afternoons, Workman said he sees very few other golfers. That's why he wanted to help the endowment introduce young players to the game.

The Golf-a-thon included 11 youngsters among its 18 players, he said. Participants played a total of 573 holes and raised about $1,000 for the endowment.

The Sycamore Golf Club course provides a good place for youngsters to learn to play golf and then to improve their game, Gene Merkle said.

"It is a beginner-friendly course," he said. "But it also can offer some really nice challenges for more-experienced golfers."

Merkle said youngsters also will benefit from learning from Todd Sandow, who owns the club now with his wife, Kathy. Todd Sandow is an award-winning teaching golf pro.

"Having a teaching pro of his caliber there really strengthens the value of this program," Merkle said.

kkilbane@news-sentinel.com


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