Short game in the stacks: Jones Library transforms into mini-golf course

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  • Carol LaValley, center, of Ware, playing with Amherst friend Judie Letourneau (just behind her) takes her tee shot on the first hole the Friends of the Jones Libraries Mini Golf Classic in Amherst on Saturday, Feb. 2.

  • Anika Alschuler, 12, sets up a basket of pens for the eighth hole, sponsored by All Energy Solar, on Friday afternoon, Feb. 1, 2019, in preparation of the Mini Golf Classic.

  • Library Mini Golf owner Rick Bolton, left, sets up the tenth hole between floors of the Jones Library on Friday afternoon while Carl Caivano, right, of PV Squared, which sponsored the hole, sets up a sign to hang over it.

  • Cait Murray, left, and Angel Fink McMickle of the UMass Five College Federal Credit Union decorate the second hole of the Friends of the Jones Libraries Mini Golf Classic course on Friday afternoon, Feb. 1, 2019, in preparation for the event the next morning. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Patrons of the Friends of the Jones Libraries Mini Golf Classic finish out the third hole, which was decorated by the Amherst Fire Department with a replica of the downtown station. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A patron putts out on the sixth hole, sponsored by People’s Bank and strewn with play money.

  • Clara Pollin, 9, and Andrew Weston, 8, tee off from the 15th hole decorated by balloon artist Melanie Klein. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Patrons negotiate the “back nine” holes of the course laid out between the stacks in the basement of the Jones Library.

  • Jessica Sidman of Amherst keeps score on the back nine of the Mini Golf Classic course.

  • Phyllis Leher, left, and Therese Brady Donahue, both with the Amherst Club, play the 14th hole, sponsored by the Kestrel Trust. The Amherst Club sponsored the fifth hole of the course at the Friends of the Jones Libraries Mini Golf Classic in Amherst on Saturday.

  • Nina Handy, 3, of Amherst attempts a challenging shot under an obstacle on the fourth hole.

  • The Amherst College Zumbyes perform an a cappella set in the atrium of the Jones Library. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Amherst College Zumbyes perform an a cappella set near hole three, which was decorated by the Amherst Fire Department. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Nathan Green, center, and his daughter, Ellie, 3, applaud the Amherst College Zumbyes during their a cappella set. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marilyn Bradley of Northampton plays the steep 10th hole at the Jones Library.

  • Albert Ho, 2, of Amherst, accompanied by his mother, Joanna Lin, follows his tee shot on the first hole of the Mini Golf Classic.

  • Patrons of the Friends of the Jones Libraries Mini Golf Classic finish out the third hole, which was decorated by the Amherst Fire Department with a replica of the downtown station.

For the Gazette
Published: 2/6/2019 8:36:07 AM

Jones Library patrons teed off for the first-ever Friends of the Jones Libraries Mini Golf Classic on Saturday. Over the course of the day, 350 players helped raise $11,000 for the library. 

The concept? Turn the library into a mini-golf course for a day, with help from a company known as Library Mini Golf, which was founded by Connecticut-based entrepreneur Rick Bolton and has produced more than 400 library golf events in 25 different states.

Bolton, with the assistance of the Amherst College golf team and an Amherst High School golfer, Evan Rutherford, created a course that wound through two floors of the library. The 10th hole was constructed to descend a staircase. 

Other holes followed the path of the stacks. “Can I play through?” called one golfer to a patron browsing books. She looked down, noticing she was standing in the middle of the course, and they both laughed as she stepped out of the way. 

Lucy McMurrer, co-president of the Friends of the Jones Library System,  mentioned the idea of a mini-golf fundraiser after a luncheon with other local libraries who’d hosted similar events in the past. The Jones group was inspired to form a committee and start finding sponsors and donors for the fundraiser.

“We were a committee of six very dedicated volunteers,” said McMurrer, who teamed up with Nancy Campbell, Elaine Donoghue, Bonnie Isman, Kanthy Lanza and Sarah Goff. Each member of the Friends took a shift running a bake sale which offered various treats to the golfers. 

In addition to encouragement from Library Director Sharon Sharry, the group received help from library staff who volunteered on their day off to come in and volunteer, McMurrer said: “This is such a feel-good community event. Everyone comes in and smiles. People give up their time and energy freely, and it’s been a really positive thing to interact with the local businesses.”

The Friends found 18 sponsors including their largest donors, the UMass Five College Federal Credit Union and West Branch Capital. At the fourth hole of the course, there was a raffle for players to win prizes. The admission fee to the event was $5, but the library remained open to patrons browsing for books and using other services.

“There were individual, anonymous community members who donated in honor of people like the Amherst Fire Department,” McMurrer said. “So I contacted them and said, ‘Hey, we have a hole we would love for you to decorate because we think so highly of you.’ ”

The Fire Department took the challenge, lining the sides of their section of the course with boots and firehoses, and placing a painted wooden replica of the fire station prominently.

Many Amherst residents came out to play. 

“I’m at the library every weekend,” Sarah Pokorny said. “I like that it’s loud in here for once.” 

In addition to regular patrons, the library advertised its “celebrity mini golfers,” such as the Amherst College Zumbyes, elementary school principals Diane Chamberlain, Derek Shea and Nick Yaffe, and University of Massachusetts Amherst mascot Sam the Minuteman.

Sandy Ward, a retired librarian of Holyoke Public Library, said she attended the Jones event to support her fellow librarians and community members. Ward said she was the one who suggested the idea of mini golf at the luncheon to Jones Library after helping to host four of the fundraisers in Holyoke.

“I love this event,” said Ward. “It brings people into the library.”

According to Ward, after being hired, Library Mini Golf uses a floor plan of each of the buildings to map out the course in advance.

“They are dedicated to helping libraries make money,” she said.

Bolton builds all of the pieces with his brother and has hired his daughter to help out as well. He had the idea for Library Mini Golf when he was 10 years old. 

“I remember being in the library and looking at the rows and stacks and thinking it looked like a fairway,” said Bolton, the son of a school principal and a high-school golf coach.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Trumbull Library in Connecticut wanted to raise money to help one of the towns impacted by the disaster. Bolton came up with the idea for a fundraiser called Golf for the Gulf, and through the event they were able to raise $10,000 for a library in Waveland, Mississippi that had been destroyed by the storm. 

Bolton called Amherst “a great community,” and Jones “the perfect environment” for Library Mini Golf, adding that it’s “one of the few programs a library can do that works for 3-year-olds and for 93-year-olds.”

“We kept randomly encountering neighbors and friends,” said Mary Elizabeth Strunk. “Even the people we didn’t know — understanding patrons who were sitting at desks around the periphery of the library — would occasionally look up from their reading to cheer us on.”

The Friends of Jones Library is hoping to make Library Mini Golf an annual event.

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