By Jackie Hampton,
On Saturday, June 19, the grand opening of the Howard D. Catchings Golf Driving Range was held at 700 McDavid Avenue in Lambert, MS at 11 a.m.
“It was an exciting day,” stated the man of whom the driving range and putting green was named. Catchings told The Mississippi Link, “It was an exciting day because I can say, I got one flower before I died.
The celebrated day started with a motorcade of drivers meeting at the Holiday Inn in Batesville. The procession was led by motorcycle drivers that escorted them to Lambert, MS. Catchings said it was his birthday and there were so many people participating.
Upon arrival, Mayor Shirley Smith Taylor extended a welcome. Manuel Killebrew, president of the Quitman County Board of Supervisors also gave a welcome.
Pro Golfer Coach Robert “Bob” Ford Sr. gave history reflections of Golf Range & Putting Green.
Catchings said naming the driving range after him was the brain child of Jackson State University retired professor Hilliard Lackey, Ph.D., who now serves as visiting professor of Higher Education at JSU. He said that Lackey, who was from Marks, MS, just two hours from Lambert, wanted to do something good for the community. He simply said, “What a day.”
Catchings was born and educated in Mississippi and is no stranger to new adventures. He has been in the insurance business for over 50 years. Prior to going into the insurance business he worked as a teacher in the Jackson Public School District.
Long-time friend, Ed Johnson not only attended the event but told many of his friends to come and be a part of what he knew would be a grand unveiling. He said, “I have known Howard Catchings for a long time and when I heard about the grand opening I wanted to be a part of it due to our long-time relationship and friendship.”
Johnson said the two played golf together, were both educators and once attended the same church. He said, “He has always supported me so I wanted to be there to support him.”
Long-time friend and business partner Leroy Walker attended the event. Walker said of the driving range, “It’ll be an outstanding adventure for the children to participate in and one that the parents will feel good about because it’s in a controlled environment.”
The event was hosted by the Town of Lambert, Mayor Shirley Smith Taylor, the Mule Train Historical Society, Coach Robert (Bob) Ford and Dr. Hilliard Lackey.
When asked what Lackey thought of the event he said, “I found myself saying over and over again, that’s the greatest thing I have ever gone to in all my life. What could have been better than that?”
He went on to say it seemed that all the stars lined up as far as the timing of the event. He referenced the Juneteenth Holiday, a celebration of Howard Catchings birthday, the anniversary of the Poor People’s March on Washington and the first day of summer.
The evolution of the idea goes back to when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached a funeral sermon in Marks, MS in the late 1960’s for Armstead Phipps, who died of a heart attack while marching with the Mississippi freedom marchers. During that visit, Dr. King saw the hopelessness on the faces of the people from Marks and Lambert but Lackey said there was hope on the faces of the people the day of the event. He said it was like Christmas morning. There were 45 tents assembled with all kinds of food for sale and give-a-ways. He said It was like the state fair.
Driving range and putting green idea
Lackey, who attended school in Lambert and Marks, said he had a Moses Complex and when he left Marks in 1961 he said he would return and do something for what he refers to as the ‘twin cities,’ Mark and lambert.
When the idea came to him, he remembered how Howard Catchings learned to play golf so that he could network with golfers to help grow his business and rather than naming it after the great golfer Tiger Woods, he thought Howard Cathings would be the right namesake. He said this would give people in the twin cities and opportunity to meet and network and be exposed to golf. He said that the driving range would be easy to build because it doesn’t have 18 holes and that the green could be easily constructed as well. Lackey said, “It’s a start.”
He said the Mule Train Historical Society of which he being from Marks is president and the V.P. being from Lambert was pleased that the Howard D. Catchings Golf Driving Range & Putting Green would further promote their goals of education, health care and economic development.
After the unveiling of the Golf Range & Putting Green, an acceptance speech was made by Catchings. He said he was so excited because they not only dedicated the driving range and named it after him, but they also named the street after him as well as the club house. “What an exciting day,” he said. He told The Mississippi Link, “They called my name so much, I thought I was somebody.”