DECATUR – Being in the hospital is about the only thing that ever keeps Robert Martindale, 70, of Decatur away from the UCP/Miller Lite Barstool Open.

This year his doctors released him Sunday after treating him for pneumonia, so the former Marine donned a cowboy hat featuring the Stars and Stripes, not to mention his Purple Heart, and showed up at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Saturday for his 11th time out.

“I usually get here by 8:30 for breakfast, but I came later on account of the ice,” Martindale said. “I've already fallen twice this winter.”

Indeed, worry about slick roads and sidewalks caused the early birds Saturday to be less than half Martindale's age, the reverse of what usually happens, according to Denny Harris, sales operations manager for George A. Mueller Beer Co., event co-sponsor.

But with main roads only wet and side streets thawing, despite the ice storm in the weekend forecast, the 16th annual Barstool Open launched buses carrying more than 2,000 players without a hitch at mid-morning from the KC Hall and Infusion Bar & Banquet Center.

Teams of four then played one of seven different miniature golf courses, each hole situated in one of 51 participating establishments.

After Harris, 70, put on his eyeglasses, that is, to read off the launch schedule from the KC Hall.

“We started out with nine bars and 50 teams and raised $16,000,” he told the Herald & Review. “This year we're hoping to make $100,000.”

Proceeds from Decatur's Barstool Open, the largest event of its kind in the country, benefit United Cerebral Palsy Land of Lincoln.

Jenny Dawson, chief marketing and development officer for the organization, said she wasn't worried about the weather would put a damper on things.

“People get cabin fever this time of year and want to get out,” she said.

Among the earliest arrivals Saturday were the “Fore Horsemen,” three 2005 graduates of Argenta-Oreana High School and a co-worker of one of them, wearing colorful Hawaiian shirts, ball caps and sunglasses.

“We despise winter,” said Kaleb Swartz, a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 146 with Dillon Lewis. “And this is a good event to be involved in.”

Teammates of the two Decatur men were Bradly Wetter of Decatur and Brad Malone of Bloomington.

Spirits were running just as high a couple tables over, where two teams and a couple “groupies” more than filled the seats.

Their connection? Many were graduates of St. Teresa High School.

The two teams wore T-shirts emblazoned with nicknames and both team names: “Sototallytober” and “I'd Tap That.”

The first-timers included Nick “Pushu” Blackburn and his fiancee Taylor Hull and Chuck and Jennifer Schaab. Second-year participants, meanwhile were Morgan “Momo” Schaab and her husband Andrew, Stephen “SteveDawg” Duncan and Raeshel “Raebomb” Braden, who said the weather forecast didn't phase them at all.

“I even suggested playing hockey in the parking lot,” she said.

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