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Golf breaks out in Ouzinkie

Posted: Sunday, June 30, 2002

KODIAK (AP) -- If you build it, they will putt.

That's what happened when one resident of Ouzinkie decided to take up golf and started teeing off at a makeshift golf course in the village park.

''It was just a big, wide open field with nobody using it,'' said resident Danny Clarion Sr. ''I just started hitting balls out there and all of a sudden everybody started getting clubs.''

Ouzinkie is a mostly Aleut village of about 225 people on Spruce Island, 11 air miles northwest of Kodiak. Fishing is the economic mainstay. Recreational activities are few on the swampy, thickly forested island.

Now, the homemade five-hole golf course has become the talk of the town.

Clarion, 38, said he and several friends had often talked about playing golf at Kodiak's Bear Valley Golf Course, so when he found a set of inexpensive clubs at an Anchorage pawn shop last summer, he bought them.

After Clarion returned to the village, he decided he needed to practice before he tackled the Kodiak course. He started hitting balls in the park, which is about 150 yards across.

''Next thing I know, everybody here in the village bought golf clubs and now everyone's playing golf,'' he said. ''Some of those guys are getting pretty good.''

The course is actually a large flat field at Sourdough Flats Recreation Area, a park the village developed with funds from the Exxon Valdez oil spill settlement. Beaches flank two sides of the park, which also has a gazebo and outhouse.

Much of the course is rough but Clarion said he tries to keep the greens mowed. The holes are pieces of PVC pipe and the flags are sticks with plastic grocery bags tied to them.

All the distances are par 3, ''but because of the amount of rough we all play them as par 5s,'' Clarion said.

After heavy rains, water hazards appear near a couple of holes.

''If you hit it down the beach, I guess it's a sand trap,'' he said.

''It's a cute little course,'' said Gary Boskofsky, who first attempted the sport a couple of weeks ago.

A fisherman for most of his life, Clarion has lived in the village since 1977, and now works as tribal maintenance manager for the Ouzinkie Tribal Council.

Now that the sport has taken hold in the village, Clarion is looking ahead.

In a few years, the village plans to relocate its airfield. When they get the new airstrip in, Clarion hopes to turn the old strip into a nine-hole golf course.



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