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The solstice is coming, the solstice is coming, the solstice...

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As I sit watching a cold drizzle wash over the flat-roof wastes of the Inkster Industrial Park, it is hard to imagine that summer is just around the corner, that the reward for enduring five months of cold, dark winter is at hand.

But it is. Harold Egbert Camping's apocalyptic fund-raising campaign notwithstanding, the tilt of the planet and its orbit around the sun ensures that summer will officially start on June 21, the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.

And as I have done for three previous solstices, I will be playing golf to celebrate its arrival, not during the day but during the evening in sunshine until 10 p.m.

I started doing this, or at least thinking about it, after work took me to St. Petersburg, Russia, at the time of the solstice. St. Petersburg is on the same latitude as Churchill -- way up there. Because it's so far north, its winters are much darker and deeper than our winters. (I've long suspected that the despair of Russia's dark winters explains why they turn so often to vodka for solace).

But when you have darker and deeper winters, you also have brighter and warmer summers. At solstice in St. Petersburg, the sun barely sets. And so, to dispel their dark winter, Russians embrace the solstice and celebrate its coming with a week-long debauch they call The White Nights.

Being Canadians, we would never engage in a week-long debauch -- we can't manage more than a couple of hours of beer-sipping and horn-honking when we win hockey gold -- but it is curious that we don't even mark the longest day, that we do nothing to squeeze all the sweetness out of that rare day we wait so long to ignore.

In any event, three years ago, my brother, my son-in-law, myself and a colleague booked a 5:30 tee time and played golf until dark, tracing our final shots to the 18th by watching them arch black against the gloaming as the sun went down. We had the course to ourselves and, as the sun settled and the shadows grew longer and the greens of the grass and trees grew deeper, it was beautiful.

The second year, there were 16 of us, and I bought a tacky trophy and had it engraved The Solstice Cup with an epigram "On the longest day, it's not too late." Ranny Mieklejohn won it that year.

Last summer, there were 32 of us and Ron Carrier won the cup.

This year, the Solstice Cup will be held at The Bridges Golf Course west of Winnipeg on Highway 2 near Starbuck.

When I explained the concept to events manager Larry Robinson, he liked it and said Bridges is the perfect course for an evening of golf, and I believe he's correct. I can see in my mind all manner of really pretty scenes -- the sun lowering over the a vast prairie on the open opening holes, casting long shadows in the trees, winking off waves on the river (backlighting sprays of water as I fail to make the shot over).

The price is $67 per player (green fees and cart) and the Loft and second-storey patio will be available after to watch the evening end.

You're welcome to join us on Saturday, June 25 (day closest to June 21 that I could get). Give me a call or email me at my address below.

As I've said, I have this sunny dream of solstice golf catching on until it is being played at every course, every year on the Saturday nearest the solstice. I imagine private clubs opening slots to the public that their members might not want in the spirit of sweet summer, that the idea spreads to other events and that one day we all embrace summer when it arrives, not when school's out.

gerald.flood@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 28, 2011 A19

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