Here’s hoping for many more years of Greatest

Many of us set out to do great things – for ourselves, for family, neighbors, business and more.

I, too, aspire for great things.

I did not envision doing a Greatest thing, but alas, it happened.

The Vindicator is in its 10th season of Greatest Golfer of the Valley. As one of its core creators and operators, it might be the best unintended success to ever happen in my business career, at least to date. I say “best to date” and not “best ever” as I hope to have successful years and ideas ahead of me.

The uniqueness of Greatest’s 10th anniversary season is that it happens amid the closing of The Vindicator operations. Two weeks after we finish the last Greatest shot on Aug. 18, The Vindicator itself will finish up after 150 years.

The Vindy closing was not lost on the Greatest Golfer community that is 3,000-plus participant golfers plus thousands of others watching, cheering and heckling from the sidelines.

In the month since we announced closing, my conversations with Greatest Golfers generally has happened like this:

“So, it’s incredible that The Vindy is closing. Is Greatest still going to happen?”

Notice some things about that line above:

It doesn’t include concern for lost watchdog journalism. It does not ask about the futures of my co-workers or myself. It pays no mind about nothing else in the world that the newspaper stood for.

That said, I’d be reckless if I did not say that such chats did eventually get around to the community, my co-workers and me. But ... It comes after “Can I still play Greatest?”

I love my Greatest Golfers!! ... Priorities!

But it’s also a testament to what we have built based on a whim starting in 2009.

Inside The Vindy, Greatest started with me, Ted Suffolk and Jason Holmes. Outside The Vindy, it was immediate and pivotal partnerships with Dennis Miller, then of Mill Creek Golf Course, Ed Muransky and Mike Ferranti of The Lake Club, John Diana, then of Trumbull Country Club and Amber Wallace of Farmers National Bank.

They were all strangers to Vindy staffers. To do great things, you have to start with people willing to trust that new is not absurd.

If any of those folks say now that they knew then that Greatest would grow to 3,000 golfers, well ... I would not call any of my friends liars. But I would say the minutes of those first meetings do not indicate such forecasts. Heck, there aren’t even minutes. It was basically napkin-like memos and handshakes.

And here we are – year 10. The anniversary year is extra special as we were able to open a Greatest Golfer of Columbus two weeks ago – and those players loved the Valley-born product.

To get to year 10, so many new partners have stepped up within The Vindy and outside The Vindy – too many to name. The result is a robust community built around a sporting event. That’s very distinct from simply tagging Greatest as a golf tournament.

The community is evident in the 70-plus junior golfer families who give us 70-plus hours of their summer and cheer on each other. It is evident in adults like Valley insurance magnate Mike Guerrieri, who plays out of prestigious Tippecanoe Country Club. He calls his Greatest time his annual summer reunion with his Valley golf buddies.

This week, we kick Greatest 10 into high gear. Registrations are due. Handicaps have to be checked. Lunches are ordered. Rain prayers are said.

And we smile as our 10th summer of this by-chance event rolls on hopefully into year 11.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.