Golfing on the Fourth

by nathan oster

For a number of locals, golf has become every bit as much a part of the Fourth of July equation as backyard barbecues, flag-waving patriotism and fireworks. Al Madden and his late wife Linda are to thank for that.

For the past 15 years, there’s been tournament golf at Midway Golf Club on Independence Day, as players have gathered to honor the memory of Linda and raise scholarship money for local students.

This year’s version of the tournament played out Monday, with 10 four-person teams in the field. The winning foursome, consisting of Joe Jenks, Tim Thompson, Paul Koenig and Doug Freier, carded a net 51.

Placing second, with a net 51.4, was the foursome of Brenton Paxton, Travis Tigner, Austin Alexander and Toron Tigner, while third went to the team of Lonnie Koch, Eddie Johnson, Ken Johnson and Wally Mayland, who finished at net 53.1.

The team with the highest net, a 58.6, was also honored in a lighthearted way. It consisted of Mike Blissett, Michelle Anderton, Nathan Vollan and Casey Massey.

As usual, though, the big winners were the students of south Big Horn County. Madden said that since the tournament began, 32 scholarships have been awarded to students from Burlington, Greybull and Riverside high schools. This past year, there were three.

Madden said he never imagined that the tournament would take off the way it has when he and Linda pitched the idea of a scramble to Dave Williamson, who was working then as the course manager.

“Linda told Dave that if he put the tournament together, we’d buy the hamburgers and buns,” recalled Al. “There weren’t many out there that year – I think maybe 10 to 12 for that first scramble. But we had fun golfing, then came in and had a burger.

“The next year, Dave asked Linda if she wanted to do it again, and she said, ‘Put up the signup sheet.’”

It, too, was a success, but then tragedy struck. That winter, Linda died of a massive heart attack. The next year, Al rebranded the tournament with the help of Williamson, settling on the Linda Madden Memorial as the name and a plan to use the proceeds to fund local scholarships.

This year, 41 golfers participated.

One of the things Al likes most about it is the laid-back atmosphere of the event.

The emphasis is on having a good time.

“Linda wouldn’t have been in any other type of tournament,” said Al. “If it wasn’t fun, she didn’t want anything to do with it. It’s not like some of other tournaments. In this one, nobody cares if the beer cart drives up behind them when they are in the middle of their backswing.”

Al chuckled when asked about his golf game.

“Not very good this year,” he said. “Linda started playing a couple years before I did and I used to make fun of her for chasing a little white ball around the pasture. But then I got hooked. I do enjoy doing it and the tournament is always fun.”