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Couples turns backyard into mini-golf course

Project built with grandkids in mind

July 5, 2012
The Alpena News


News Lifestyles Editor

Jim and Nancy Smithem of 9539 W. Long Lake Road don't let any green grass grow over their septic tank literally.

Article Photos

News Photo by Diane Speer
Jim and Nancy Smithem’s grandchildren have been enjoying the backyard mini-golf course they started last year and completed this spring at their home on Long Lake. Shown from left are Maggie Kelly (7), twins Tommy and Jena Smithem (9), Emma Kelly (11) and Ezra Peterson, 3. Missing from the photo is grandson Devin Smithem (13).

The two have taken what they previously considered an eyesore area of their backyard and transformed it into a mini-golf course for their grandchildren.

"Everything we do, we do for our kids and our grandchildren," said Nancy, who first hatched the plan for a putt-putt course and then persuaded her handy husband to construct it.

The couple started the project last year, but had to put it on hold for awhile when Jim was diagnosed with cancer. Despite the obstacles related to Jim's health, they finally were able to complete the course this spring and open it up for their six grandchildren as well as the children or grandchildren of their many friends and neighbors.

"They love it," said Nancy of the reaction from their grandkids. "They have so much fun, and they bring their friends over to play."

"To hear their laughter and see them playing on it makes it all worthwhile," agreed Jim.

The course features six holes, plus a big putting green. Each of the holes is named after one of their grandchildren: Ezra Peterson (3), Maggie Kelly (7), twins Tommy and Jena Smithem (9), Emma Kelly (11) and Devin Smithem (13). All are landscaped and encourage youngsters to stop awhile and have fun.

"I like it," said the couple's youngest granddaughter, Ezra, of the chance to play miniature golf anytime she wants. "I have my own hole."

The Smithems christened the course in grand style last week when they planned a big summertime bash for the grandkids, plus nearly 30 other children they invited to the party. They rented an inflatable waterslide that turned out to be a big hit, had friends offer face painting and balloon sculptures, and served plenty of kid-friendly foods.

The new mini-golf course just adds one more fun-loving aspect to the couple's lakeside home that makes going to grandma and grandpa's a much anticipated experience. Known for their warm, welcoming and casual entertaining style, their place spills over with colorful tropical-inspired touches like flamingos and palm trees.

Their large-size pontoon boat not only provides rides around the lake for everyone, but during the summer it serves as their summer dining room where they daily take their meals.

An abundance of flowers completes the setting of the couple's home and new golf course, with Jim taking responsiblity for watering the flowers twice a day when the weather turns hot.

"It's our labor of love," Nancy said. "If you live on the lake and have such a glorious life and didn't share it with anyone, what good would that be? So we share it with everyone."



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