This is one kind of outing I’m not embarrassed of

Craig Hall

Yes, I ended that with a preposition. It will be the first of many indulgences I seek from readers of this column.

A few weeks back, I once again survived an annual rite of passage. It’s actually called “The Outing,” although none of the gentlemen involved in creating that moniker thought about the name at the time. But, hey,  given our state of mind at that moment, The Outing is actually creative.

This year’s great awakening was attended by 28 upstanding men of impeccable reputation. OK, you got me; that’s not it. But there were indeed 28 of us at the beginning and at the end — which given our advancing age, is a win.

The Outing is about golf, guys and beer (and chasing girls who laugh at us uproariously), and has been happening now for 20 years. I have been privileged to take part in a dozen of them. And I marvel at just what, and indeed how important, this event has become.

As my wife Nikki has explained to friends time and again, The Outing is not a place for any participant’s spouse to be within 50 miles. Yes, it’s that kind

of gentlemen’s celebration. As a matter of fact, cameras have not been seen at The Outing until the last few years. Let’s just say I have seen and participated in behavior that is best left in northern Michigan. And I missed the real raucous stuff for the first few years.

But as important as active participation in The Outing is, that is not what really has me thinking.

To me , The Outing has become a measurement of what happens in life. It’s also the common thread that keeps a very, very diverse group of guys together in good times and  bad.

The Outing began as a cel

ebration of one man’s first step into life’s reality after college. I say college because the core of the group is formed by a bunch of guys who were together at Central Michigan University, although some of them are life-long friends. It was a bachelor party for one of the first of the group to get married.

I don’t know how many were part of the first excursion, but The Outing has grown to include many, including me, and it’s amazing in its capacity to accept nearly all (some folks just ain’t a good match) and allow us to pick up where we left off the year before.

Over the years the members have married, had kids, become divorced, remarried and lived through the deaths of loved ones. What is special about The Outing is that I know that during any of these events for any one of us, the others can be counted on for sympathy, assistance, a needed ear or the appropriate or inappropriate humor needed to help each other get through the tough and the easy times.

I can still remember after I lost my second brother in a matter of only five weeks. While we were not up north, I decided to go to the Sunday golf round as I had nothing else to do the next morning waiting for my parents to fly into town. My friends, obviously stunned, told me they didn’t know what to say. I simply replied for them to say what they would normally say when I hit a bad shot. Needless to say, there was plenty of chatter and friendship flowing after my first swing of the day.

And that friendship when it arrives in northern Michigan is stronger than ever. When you have 28 guys at a resort, with beer and in each others’ company about 18 hours a day, things are bound to happen. There have been fights, and yes, a few have come to blows. But in the magic that is men’s relationships, another round seems to cure all ill feelings. Politics is limited at The Outing unless we are in like-minded groups, as I think we all realize the volatility of the subject and because participants in The Outing runs the gamut on the political spectrum.

The last few years have seen the loss of loved ones play a prominent role. Two brothers who are very good friends of mine lost their father (himself a participant in the event for years) while we were up north. It was sad and oddly appropriate at the same time. We now play to victoriously possess the cup named in honor of our friend’s father in the annual scramble round. In its own way, The Outing gives this group of friends a w

ay to celebrate the life lived after such a loss.

But this year will be different when it comes to loss, as a very good Outing friend has a wife with terminal cancer. Although I missed seeing her this year as we loaded and unloaded vehicles at their home, I cannot help but think of Pam, her husband Tom and their daughters every day in prayers. We know one day The Outing will lose another loved one.

But I am gladdened about the stories I hear about her life, of the times my family spent with Pam and her family and of the time she is now spending with good friends every day—all of which The Outing is the thread.

And I know in its proper time, The Outing will be a celebration of Pam’s life, another thread permanently woven into its fabric.

Craig Hall is owner and publisher of the Business Times. Reach him at 424-5133 or