There are some “Mud Ducks” on the horizon. The sixth annual Mark “Mud Duck” Sullivan Junior Golf Camp will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Wednesday, while the final day of camp will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday at Choctaw Country Club. The camp is open to boys and girls of all ages. Entry fee is $20 per camper.
Instructors will be Poteau golf coaches Mike Thomas and Randall Wheat, along with Andy Perdue and the high school golf teams.
Sullivan was a Poteau High School football player and golfer. After graduation, he moved to Florida, and was preparing to move back home — but then tragedy hit.
“Mark was getting ready to move back from Florida,” Thomas said. “He had a business down there. He was cleaning up his place outside, and just had a sudden heart attack — and we lost him about nine years ago.
“Mark played football and golf here at Poteau High School. I coached Mark back when he was in Bandit League football. I've just always been real close to the family.”
So, thoughts about how to continue Mark's legacy were pondered.
“His mother, Kay, called me and asked me if I could give an award or something in his honor,” Thomas said. “Mark was an excellent high school golfer. He played a lot of junior golf and grew up at the (Choctaw) Country Club. So, I thought about it for a while as to what I could do in Mark's honor. I thought about a plaque or an award in his honor to give away each spring at our sports banquet. Then I thought I could do a lot better. I could start a junior camp in Mark's honor. It's served as an excellent tool to promote junior golf, and get them ready for our high school program.
“If I could go back through some old pictures I took to some of the first campers when I started the golf camp, they're some of our high school players right now. They've become excellent golfers. You're talking about people like Jarrett Lowrimore, Connor Wheat, John Scott Sanders, Cody Shore. Hannah Ward came up through this program. Cathleen (Manlove) did. I could just go on and on with a list of kids like them who got their start in this camp. Those kids grew up coming through the 'Mud Duck' Camp. For some of them, that was their start to playing golf.
“It doesn't seem like it's been eight years since we started this. It's been a lot of fun. We run about 45 kids or so. I look forward to seeing those kids every summer.”
Thomas is glad the Pirates and Lady Pirates help with the camp.
“That's a good thing for them because it give them a chance to give back,” he said. “We taught them, and now it's their turn to do the same.”
Thomas tells how Mark's nickname, “Mud Duck,” came about.
“He had a nickname, 'Mud Duck,' he said. “That came from when he would need golf balls, he'd dive into the muddy ponds and get golf balls. So, that's how he got the nickname, "Mud Duck." We just carried the name on over to the campers.”
The true basics are instilled to the campers during the three-day event.
“We try to teach them basic fundamentals — stance, grip, posture,” Thomas said. “We work on their full swings, and chipping and putting — and other skills. We do about two days worth of that. We also throw in a little bit of golf etiquette. We teach them some golf rules. The last day, we have skill competitions — longest drive contest, closest to the pin contest, chipping contest and putting contest. We'll give away a lot of awards and ribbons.”
The ultimate goal is to make the campers want to be Pirate and Lady Pirate golfers when they become high schoolers.
“That was one of the main things we looked at when we started this,” Thomas said. “We didn't have many good junior golfers at the time. We knew we had to do something. This was an excellent way to introduce golf to a lot of kids who hadn't played before. We could give them some instruction, and maybe light a fire under them to where they wanted to get better — and maybe play in some junior golf tournaments over the summer. It's helped our boys and girls programs.”
For more information, call (918) 647-3488, (918) 839-0155 or (918) 649-5030.