This weekend marked the 21st annual combined scramble tournament at the Marion and Hillsboro golf courses. The tournament attracted 144 golfers — so many that the field had to be split into two sessions because there wasn’t enough room on both courses for that many golfers. It wasn’t in support of any grand cause, because it didn’t need one. Working together, the courses put on a tournament that was solely for enjoyment and competition.
Next month is the Bruce-Crofoot Challenge Cup, the annual head-to-head competition between the two courses’ best golfers for bragging rights. And if Marion High School can reach an agreement with Peabody-Burns, the Marion County Invitational golf tournament will go on like usual in the spring, a unique test of golfers’ endurance, covering 36 holes over two courses in a single day.
The golfers certainly know how to cooperate while maintaining a friendly rivalry. Together, they’re able to put on massive events that raise both courses’ profiles, and they’re still able to duke it out over bragging rights every year.
When I joined the newspaper almost five years ago, I didn’t have time to unpack before people — from both towns — wanted to tell me how bitter the rivalry between Marion and Hillsboro was. They told me that cooperation between the two was next to impossible because there was so much entrenched enmity on both sides. Every person who told me these things made a point of saying they personally didn’t think the “other side” was so bad, and that the people perpetuating the unfriendly rivalry were unreasonable. I still haven’t met a person who admits to outright hatred of the other community.
Nonetheless, cooperation can still be slow to develop. The chambers of commerce finally worked together to put on a shared annual banquet two years ago. Now the location is rotating between Marion and Hillsboro. The schools were early adopters of cooperation, joining together — along with several other area schools — for technology and special education needs. They saw needs that they could help each other with, so they did. That doesn’t diminish the rivalry the schools have in competitive events.
It’s time for another shot at cooperation for economic development. Out-of-county businesses see Marion County as easy pickings to bring in new customers — now it’s Newton Medical Center, but what’s next? With teamwork, we can do a lot more about the economic challenges facing small towns. Working together doesn’t mean giving up the rivalries that make things exciting. The golfers certainly have that figured out.
— ADAM STEWART