Once a year, usually the Saturday before Memorial Day weekend, an unsuspecting visitor to Ketchum may be surprised to see droves of extravagantly costumed, golf club-wielding, fun-loving citizens ambling around the city, knocking back a few drinks and gently nudging golf balls into tiny holes.
This is the Ketchum Wide Open.
For those unfamiliar with the Ketchum Wide Open, one could perhaps most concisely describe it as an all-afternoon costumed mini-golf bar crawl for charity.
Although its exact origins remain somewhat ambiguous, the event is currently organized by Pete Prekeges, owner of Grumpy’s in Ketchum and the Silver Dollar Saloon in Bellevue, and Rick Lethbridge, owner of the Cellar Pub in Ketchum.
“It started as something to do during slack,” Prekeges said.
The pair have become Ketchum’s unofficial masters of offseason fun, also organizing the Gelande Quaffing competition and the Nightmare on Main Street Halloween party.
Upwards of 250 players are expected to participate in this year’s Wide Open, forming teams of two and putting across Ketchum’s 10-hole course.
Starting at Grumpy’s, participants will progress through the course, visiting nine other establishments around town: Lefty’s, the Sawtooth Brewery, Hotel Ketchum, The Cellar Pub, Whiskey Jacques’, Casino, Smokey Mountain Pizza, Warfield and—new this year—the Argyros Performing Arts Center.
Teams of two register for $30 and will receive commemorative golf balls as they get going. As this is, effectively, a bar crawl, there will of course be a drinking element to the game. If any golfer finds him or herself displeased with a stroke, he or she may purchase a mulligan from any hole to decrease a score by one, but in the Ketchum Wide Open, mulligans take the form of alcoholic beverages.
As Graham Greene so memorably laid out in “Our Man in Havana,” alcohol does impede strategy and skill, so competitive spirits should use these mulligans wisely. One must presume that the more inebriated a player, the less effective a player.
“It is a drinking event,” Lethbridge allowed, “But children are definitely welcome.”
Underage participants and those who choose not to consume alcohol may still play, and in lieu of purchasing drinks to carve points off of scores, these players can donate the cost of the drink to the charity instead.
“We give at least two grand a year, minimum, to charities,” said Prekeges. “This time, we’re focusing on the Sawtooth Avalanche Center, because they had a very busy year.”
All proceeds from the event, including the $30 entry fee and the cost of mulligans, will be donated to support the work of the center, which provides life-saving avalanche forecasts, patrols and relief efforts throughout the Sawtooth region.
The whole event lasts from noon until 5 p.m. Awards will be given at Whiskey Jacques’ at 5:30 p.m. in the following categories: farthest traveled (who journeyed the greatest distance to participate); youngest participant; oldest participant; best costume, which is always a heated competition; best hole, granted to the establishment that designed the best mini-golf hole; and the coveted Golden Putter, awarded to the golfer with the lowest score of seven holes.
So, get creative, gear up, practice that putt, and don’t forget to keep hydrated. Maybe lay down a base of carbs, first, too.