Message in the ceiling

By |  April 12, 2018 0 Comments
Seth Jones headshot (Photo: Golfdom)

Seth Jones

Recently a new Guinness world record was set when a 132-year-old message in a bottle was discovered on a beach in Australia. The bottle was thrown from a German ship into the Indian Ocean in 1886 as part of a research project. That something so fragile as paper in a bottle can survive for 132 years fascinates me.

Since then, American golf has had a similar discovery like that 132-year-old message in a bottle. Except that this was a 97-year-old message in a ceiling.

Check out this short story about the discovery made by Mike Manthey, superintendent at Midland Hills CC in Roseville, Minn. Manthey was looking for a topography map in his closet when he decided it was time to straighten out that crooked ceiling tile. But before straightening it, he turned on his cell phone flashlight and took a quick look up there. That’s when he saw a roll of canvas leaning up against the wall.

It was a 3-foot by 6-foot copy of the original Seth Raynor drawing of the course, with a drawing of the original irrigation system on top. It was dated Feb. 7, 1921.

Manthey has written a great blog post about the find. I encourage you to check it out. I’m again stunned when such a fragile document survives and is found decades later. It makes me wonder what else is out there waiting to be discovered.

I had my own message-in-a-ceiling moment recently. What I found wasn’t nearly as significant, but it did cause some introspection.

When my mom died a few years ago, my sister and I inherited all her belongings (my dad passed back in 2009). I now have three large plastic tubs with thousands of old photos. One of the tubs contains more modern memories… my old basketball team photos; my sister’s softball team photos; embarrassingly, both of our high school report cards. And then I found something I forgot I ever did: a series of 10 letters I wrote to my parents as a 19-year-old freshman attending Kansas University.

I tore into the first letter, excited to experience this time capsule gift from my mom of what my life was like then. Some of the things I learned from just one letter:

  • I didn’t want to leave my dorm room for fear I would miss a call from the editor of the student newspaper, offering me a job;
  • I was really impressed by a friend’s Mitsubishi 3000;
  • And of course, I had to tell my parents about the girl I was dating while at the same time trying to act cool about it.

I finished the letter, cussed, then stashed all 10 envelopes away, embarrassed by what a jerk I was at 19. I wanted to light the stack on fire. Only recently did I read all 10 letters, and I found later ones more rewarding. Turns out the editor never called, the girl and I went separate ways. But how else would I have remembered any of this (especially the bit about admiring the Mitsubishi 3000) if it weren’t for these letters?

I recently got to speak at the Ohio Turfgrass Foundation Spring Tee-Off. Some advice sprung up from that meeting during a conversation where we were asked about documenting our accomplishments. Mark Novotny, CGCS at Westchester GC in Columbus, Ohio, advised everyone in the room to be sure to take photos of everything you accomplish on the golf course during the year. “You end up doing so many things, you tend to forget some of the projects you did early in the season,” he said.

We won’t all find priceless Seth Raynor drawings in the ceiling. Be thankful you won’t find embarrassing Seth Jones letters in any shoebox. But we can all take the time to document life as it’s happening — before we forget all the good, bad and ugly details.

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