Sports

Honoring a pillar of Wichita's golf scene

Putting on local golf tournaments has never been easier in this Internet/spreadsheet/e-mail world.

Then there's the Eldis Beets way.

"Because I'm computer illiterate," he said.

Beets' system for running golf tournaments is get details on paper, commit everything to memory, hand entries off to wife Linda to be put into the computer, and do everything else yourself.

"I don't want to say he's set in his ways," protege Mitch Seals said, "but let's say he has a method."

Beets has long been Mr. Get It Done on the Wichita golf scene, running the Wichita Golf Association's six-pack of tournaments since the early 1990s. At 80, he's handed off secretary-treasurer duties to Seals, but has still been on hand at every tournament.

Last month, the WGA board decided to honor Beets by putting his name on the title of the city fourball tournament, the WGA's first event each year. Beginning next year, it'll be the WGA Eldis Beets Fourball.

"They brought it up at the last meeting and told me they thought it'd be better to do it now before I died," Beets joked. "I was shocked, almost numb."

The city fourball is the Daytona 500 of the local golf schedule. With two-man teams playing four rounds over two weekends — the second round of qualifying for 128 teams is today — it's by far the biggest tournament and brings in standout golfers as well as the average guys who make it a tradition to team up in fourball.

"Once you get the fourball done," Seals said, "the rest of the schedule is much easier."

So putting Beets' name on WGA's biggie was a nice surprise for the former assistant pro at Meadowlark Golf Course (now Clapp). Beets made a career as an accountant but was also a scratch golfer for many years.

He's been a part of the WGA for more than 50 years and doesn't imagine leaving it anytime soon.

While the fourball will have his name, it's the boys junior tournament that will have his heart.

"You see a kid come in at 10 or 11 and you get to watch him grow up and mature for six or seven years," Beets said.

It's also the most rewarding tournament on the schedule. A few years ago, Beets was sitting on the Tallgrass Country Club patio, waiting for a tournament to end, when some young men approached.

"They were four kids who had played in the junior tournament, gone to college and were back now in the adult tournaments, and they sat down and had a beer with us," Beets said. "It's neat to have them come back and say hi to you."

Channeling Tom Shales — Watching ESPN's five guys at the Big Boys' Desk for Thursday night's first round of the NFL Draft was fascinating, troubling and hilarious at the same time.

From right to left:

* Chris Berman, who already had proven he was past his prime, couldn't control things and once tried to wave the cameras off while he was on air.

* Tom Jackson, who a close-up of late in the show revealed he was plotting the death of...

* Steve Young, who couldn't shut up, talking over Jackson repeatedly.

* John Gruden, who thought every player was outstanding and dropped a profanity in for good measure.

* Mel Kiper, left silent most of the night, maybe trying to figure out how his projected fourth pick, Jimmy Clausen, went untaken.

Forget tradition, ESPN has to find a new role for Berman on draft night. He spent Thursday as a agitated traffic cop without a whistle.

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