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Ed Allen: Redeeming the 19th Hole

"It's the toughest decision I ever made," says Ed Allen, a West Virginia native and former golf pro. "All my friends thought I was crazy. They said eliminating beer sales at Sugarwood Golf Club [in southwestern West Virginia] would hurt us." Instead, a year after his beer license expired, Allen's business rose 19 percent in one month over the previous year.

Now behind the evergreens and spruce trees lining the fairways, no inebriated golfers wander off to relieve themselves. Nor do tipsy drivers wreck carts. It's just as pleasant inside the clubhouse, where Allen has also halted the continuous poker games that used to run until midnight. Sugarwood is a family kind of place.

Not that alcohol never shows up. Allen knows he can't search every golf bag for "smuggled" cans and bottles. But NO ALCOHOL signs on the clubhouse doors remind everyone that liquor is not welcome.

Where did Allen get the courage to say no? It wasn't overnight.

Though he accepted Christ in the early 1970s, Allen drifted away from church. His seven-days-a-week work routine at the golf course strained his marriage. Twice his wife, Trish, divorced and remarried him. Her patience was wearing thin again when she found a new church home.

Trish talked him into going to a family life seminar with her. Three nights into the four-night session, Ed broke down and promised again to live for God.

That decision took action at Sugarwood. Over three years Allen eliminated smoking, gambling, and beer. Interestingly enough, dropping poker elicited the biggest outcry.

The alcohol ban also brought passionate protest, but nine out of ten customers approved. Pastors encouraged their golf-playing members to play the alcohol-free course. Business increased.

"I don't have any fear now of people leaving the golf club drunk and causing an accident," Allen says. "It happens all over the country. I encourage any Christian who owns a golf course with a clubhouse that sells alcohol to take a step of faith and stop. Such a personal stand serves everyone well."

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