by Susan Hamilton

Adults and children have been attracted to pastimes involving hitting round objects for centuries. In 15th-century Scotland, such a game was played with a club made of a bent tree branch and a ball made of a small leather bag stuffed with feathers. Nearly 300 years later, the world's oldest golf organization, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, was formed and set up the Silver Club competition.

Golf's popularity has increased with the number of competitions, including the famous British Open, U.S. Open, U.S. PGA Championship and the U.S. Masters. The worldwide boom that golf now enjoys has seen the sport become a multi-billion dollar industry with more than 20 million players. In the Inland Northwest, novices and pros alike flock to the Spokane Pro Classic, which takes place this Sunday and Monday.

What makes the game so popular? Above all else, golf is relaxing. It's time spent on a manicured green in beautiful surroundings, away from everyday pressures while you focus on getting a small, dimpled ball into a hole. Golf is also pleasurable exercise. If you walk an 18-hole course, you've just put in the equivalent of a five-mile walk.

Here in the Inland Northwest, golf is also popular because of the number of scenic, professionally designed, accessible and affordable public courses; the relatively long golfing season; available tee times; and experienced, professional golf instructors.

Patti Marquis is such an instructor. Named the Inland Empire PGA Teacher of the Year for 2000 and a top golf teacher by Golf for Women magazine and the prestigious Golf Digest, Marquis has a passion for teaching and an active lesson schedule. She's been playing golf since she was 10 and teaching golf for 23 years. At Painted Hills Golf Course in the Spokane Valley where she teaches, I asked Marquis, what people can learn at events like the Spokane Pro Classic.

"Just watching a pro swing," says Marquis, "will show you the tempo and rhythm that makes a good golf swing."

Celebrating its eighth year, the Spokane Pro Classic is an activity-filled two days of golf for both pros and amateurs. The event at the championship Creek at Qualchan course benefits many local charities. Known as the premier spectator golf event in the Inland Northwest, the Pro Classic features an all-star lineup of PGA and Senior PGA Tour Pros as well as celebrity golfers.

"This is probably the most diversified field we've ever put together," says Tournament Director Toby Stewart.

The "Big Shots" include Kirk Triplett, Inland Northwest native and winner of the 2000 Los Angeles Nissan Open; Jason Zuback, four-time World Long-Drive Champion; Craig T. Nelson, Spokane native and Emmy-winning actor and producer; and Rory Sabbatini, a rising PGA star.

Also appearing are 11 PGA pros, including Spokane native and LPGA Tour rookie Nicole Materne and PGA Tour player Rich Beem.

Mark Rypien and Jim McMahon, both former NFL quarterbacks and Superbowl winners, will join the pros for Monday's Tidyman's Shootout, the Spokane Pro Classic's signature event. The six-hole event pairs pros and celebrities in two-person teams while playing alternate shots for a $10,000 purse.

Sunday, August 5, will be a full day at the Pro Classic. The MSC Premera Blue Cross Pro-Am, starting at 8:30 am, provides an opportunity for amateur golfers to compete with local PGA pros, tour pros and celebrities in a scramble format. Four amateurs are paired with a local club pro, who will be playing their own ball for a share of the NorthTown Invitational $8,000 purse.

Also on Sunday is Tidyman's Kids' Day. A wide array of activities for kids of all ages and skill levels are available -- from Divot the Clown's Trick Shot Show to the Kids' Clinic personalized lessons.

On Sunday and Monday, the Never Compromise Putting Competition takes place all day. Spectators can try their hand at putting and may win a Never Compromise putter.

Monday's events start with the Tidyman's Shootout at 8:30 am. Following the Shootout is the Golfzilla Long-Drive Show. Jason Zuback, who once hit a drive 463 yards in competition, will share some of his techniques for hitting the ball long.

On Monday afternoon, the Pro-Am continues, with four amateurs paired on different teams with a tour pro or celebrity anchoring their group. The Never Compromise putting finals are later that afternoon on the 18th green.

Both Sunday and Monday at the Buick Fantasy Theater, green-screen technology allows you to have your picture taken next to an image of Tiger Woods. The exhibit also offers a golf-swing-analysis station and a chip-and-putt station.

The Spokane Pro Classic takes place at

the Creek at Qualchan Golf Course on

Aug. 5-6. Tickets: $20; children 12 and younger are free. Tickets are available at

all area Tidyman's or G & amp;B Select-A-Seat. For more information, call 448-2272.

Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch @ Colville Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch

Through Oct. 31, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
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