Friday, March 5, 2010

It’s About More than Golf

“We love Gulf Shores,” says Bill Gaut from Springfield, MO. “Good food, good golf courses, and it’s easy to find everything.”

Friends Mike and Charlie seconded Bill’s thoughts as we sat at the Tin Top restaurant snacking on fried pickles, baked oysters and grilled tuna. Members of the 41st Annual Bratton Brothers Invitational golf tournament, these gentlemen hailed from Oklahoma, Missouri and Alabama. Just a few of the 80+ members of this group, their sentiments were repeated throughout the night by others in attendance, who traveled from all over the country to play golf for four days straight, dine in local establishments and enjoy the gulf views from their condominiums in Orange Beach.

Joe Bratton and his younger brother Bobby brought a group of seven golfers (the eighth cancelled at the last minute) to Gulf Shores in 1970. Forty-one years later, the group has grown exponentially as each golfer began bringing one friend beginning in the second year. The group has ebbed and flowed in size, at one point swelling to almost 150 golfing friends. Now more limited so that the group can all play at one course together simultaneously, this annual gathering is about more than a few rounds of golf.

“It’s about way more than golf,” says Jimmy Lee of Andalusia. It took me years to get invited, and it was something I waited and waited for. Now I would not miss it. This is about fellowship and long-term friendships that have endured over time.”

As soon as I first met the group, that sentiment came through quite clearly. These guys like each other. They wait all year to take this trip, and they make the most of the time they spend together. While many of them see each other on a regular basis—playing golf, attending church—some of these friendships allow for “face time” only once a year. So they make the most of it. Laughter, shouts, and back-slapping are prevalent and ongoing. This group is no stranger to a good time, and they clearly enjoy each other’s company.

At dinner last night, there was some reminiscing, some story-telling, some commiserating over the day’s round, and a lot of appreciative comments about the delicious food being served up. The Midwestern contingent was enjoying the seafood they can’t get at home. Everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to more great golf. Their next round is at The Golf Club of the Wharf, with their final round at Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club on Saturday. Sunday is a day of recreation or travel, and then the group will begin looking forward to next year’s trip.

Photos below: Greg Waldrop, from Birmingham, AL, greets the BBI golfers with a big smile at the Tin Top Restaurant. Greg plays a key role in promoting the group on their annual excursions and was a tremendous help as the area prepared for the group’s arrival.

Good food is definitely a priority for this group. Members commented consistently that one of the reasons they love Gulf Shores is the great food and the variety. Several noted how many great restaurants have opened up over the years they’ve been visiting here. Favorites include The Tin Top and Nolan’s.

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