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August 1, 2006

Your Weekly Reeder: Red-plate days are here again

Martha McMahon believes in celebrating life’s victories, even the small ones, and that’s how she came up
with the idea of the red plate. Whenever something good happened to her husband or her son, she would let them eat off the red plate.
Her feeling was, there’s so much heartache in the world that the good stuff needs to be savored.

While most of the McMahons’ red-plate days revolved around their son, some also were inspired by golf. Both Martha and Jeff loved the game. They frequently played together with friends at the Hunting Creek Country Club or on trips to Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and other states where golf is almost as important as SEC football and homemade sweet-potato pie.

Although Martha didn’t take up the game until her mid-30s, she learned quickly and soon was beating her husband with regularity. This isn’t exactly what you would call the best recipe for marital bliss, but they worked it out. By the early 1990s, Martha was regularly competing in the championship flights of various tournaments around the area, including the Ladies Falls City, the most coveted title of all.

In 2002, Martha even got mentioned in Golf Digest when she lost to Louise Wilson in the Falls City. It was the 50th anniversary of Louise’s first Falls City title in 1952, which also happened to be the year Martha was born.
Two years ago, Martha’s world was shattered. Her husband went off on a golfing trip with some buddies and never came home. His health had seemed good, so the heart attack was a total shock.

The red plate was tucked away in a cabinet, and the golf clubs began to gather dust in the garage. She lost interest in almost everything except her son, Andrew. She didn’t even enter last summer’s Falls City, but did muster a red-plate smile when her friend, Angela Hornung, won the championship.
But then, almost imperceptibly, the game began to tug at her.

She virtually forced herself to go to Southern Sports and begin taking lessons from Vance Smith, a teaching pro whose father, Tommy, was the head pro at the Louisville Country Club for many years.

The better she began hitting the ball, the more she was able to lose herself in the game. It was golf as therapy, and it worked. When the one-day events and tournaments began late this spring, Martha was back and her friends were delighted.

It should be noted here that the chemistry among women golfers significantly differs from their male counterparts.
Through deaths and divorces and the traumas of child-rearing, they are bound by more than birdies and bogies. They sustain each other, one generation to the next. They have golf, certainly, but more importantly, they have each other.

Last week, the 83rd Falls City Ladies championship was held at Martha McMahon’s home course at Hunting Creek. Angela Hornung was back to defend her championship. The field also included former champions Martha Fuchs, Martha Humin and Debbi Cissell.

But when the smoke had cleared after a day of qualifying and three tense days of match play, doggoned if Martha McMahon wasn’t in the championship match against Suzanne Seaton, a talented player from Southern Indiana.
Although most of Seaton’s family was there to follow her around, the gallery of around 50 mostly belonged to Martha, including Vance Smith, who had skipped his lessons to come watch his protégé.

It turned out to be a wonderfully competitive match. With Martha rallying from a two-hole deficit to take a 1-up lead after 14, neither blinked down the stretch. They halved the last four holes to leave Martha with a victory she couldn’t have imagined a year ago.

Afterward, beaming through her tears, she complimented Suzanne, thanked Vance and let herself be wrapped in hugs from her Falls City buddies.
The champ received two trophies. The larger, older one was donated by the old Stewart Dry Goods Co. and was initially awarded in 1935. When it ran out of engraving space, Pepsi-Cola donated a new trophy.

“To have my name on that trophy is something I never imagined could happen,” she said. “I’m just so impressed with the women of Falls City, both past and present.”

There’s so much heartache in the world that the good stuff needs to be savored. It can only be hoped that when she went home, Martha McMahon got out the red plate and treated herself to a big helping of joy.

Contact the writer at
billyr@leoweekly.com