EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Midget Links, a piece of Evansville’s entertainment history and one of the five oldest miniature golf courses in the country, has been closed and is being razed.
News of the closure Wednesday started a chain reaction of community members reminiscing on the good times had at the golf course. Over Midget Links’ 73-year history, generations went there to welcome the first days of spring, celebrate birthdays, and even fall in love.
“A lot of people tell me their first date was here and they even came back to celebrate their anniversaries. Some people tell me they met their wife or husband here and have been married for 50-plus years,” said the current owner, Paul Dayton.
He purchased the course in 1998 from Roy and Esther Brenton, who first opened Midget Links in 1947.
Their grandson, Louis Brenton, worked at Midget Links as a teenager. He said he was happy to be at a place that brought joy to so many others. He hears a lot of stories about how people fell love at Midget links, but his favorite is his grandparents.
“They were very much in love for all those years. I think about at that all the time when I think about the kind of marriage I want to have,” Louis Brenton said.
Roy and Esther Brenton (Photo: Kent Brenton)
Roy and Esther raised him and he grew up at the home they had on the Midget Links property along with their sons Kent and Larry.
“That was my entire front yard growing up. That’s where we played. We were popular with the neighborhood kids because they got to play for free as long as they were playing with us,” Kent Breton joked.
Louis Breton said he loved living there. It was a one-of-a-kind experience.
“Whatever you grow up with you think is normal. I thought it was normal that I lived at our family business and we had several hundred people at our front yard every night,” Louis Brenton said.
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Building Midget Links
What Louis and Kent Brenton remember most about those days is the hard work and dedication Roy Brenton put into the golf course.
“Much of the concrete that you see there, the sidewalks and playing surface, he mixed the concrete himself in a little 3-cubic-foot mixer. He poured it and troweled it himself on his hands and knees. The guy was the hardest worker I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Kent Brenton said.
Roy Brenton had the idea of building a miniature golf course in his early 20s, and after he married Esther, the two drove around the country visiting courses for inspiration.
“For whatever reason he just loved the idea and started his own in ’47,” Kent Brenton said.
He said his dad built virtually every part of the course himself and took pride in his work.
Those who knew Roy and Esther said they made a good team operating Midget Links.
“My grandparents made their way in the world and I’m very proud. My grandfather built that place and he made it excellent. I learned a lot about excellence from watching him,” Louis Brenton said. “My grandmother, she was a classic lady. Very charming, sociable. Carried herself very well. That’s how everyone described her, everyone loved her.”
Midget Links soon grew to be a hallmark of the community. People from neighboring cities would even drive over to play.
“It was always acknowledged as the best kept miniature golf course in the area,” Kent Brenton said.
He remembers how busy it got during the summer and his parents would end up staying open as late as 2 a.m.
Kent Coleman also remembers those summer nights; he would go there as a teenager on weekends.
“You would have to wait to play sometimes,” Coleman said.
He first began going to the course as a kid. He has fond memories of spending days there playing mini-golf with his mom and brother and heading to Zesto’s afterward for ice cream.
As he got older he went there with friends or on dates. When Coleman became a father he took his kids there on Saturdays.
“It was a sign of spring when you saw getting them getting the golf course ready,” Coleman said.
“It’s something that’s been around forever. It’s goes back even further than my life. My mom and dad dated there. They in turn took us as kids over there and I grew up playing there, I had dates there. Then I also ended up taking my kids over there.”
Coleman said a lot of people have stories like his about Midget Links. It’s positively impacted people’s lives and talking about Midget Links stirs up memories of carefree summer days.
“This was a part of Evansville. It’s going to be missed by a lot of people,” Coleman said.
Paul Dayton said a lot of people have been driving by upon hearing the news of its closing.
Dayton purchased the property in 1998. After Roy Brenton passed away from lung cancer in 1993, Esther eventually retired and the Brenton family put the place up for sale.
Dayton played at Midget Links as a child and one day, after taking his kids there, he saw the for-sale sign and a few months later purchased the course.
He said it’s been wonderful running Midget Links for the last 22 years with his family and seeing the joy it’s brought to the community.
“It’s a mainstay, it’s a piece of their history, piece of their life. Anyone whose been in Evansville for a long time has probably played here and it’s just part of Evansville,” Dayton said.
Coleman said while Midget Links is closing, its reputation in Evansville as a place that brought people together will remain.
“Someone said a person never dies as long as you keep talking about them. I think that’s the way this is. There are so many great memories about that golf course that Midget Links will never die as long as people remember it and keep talking about it,” Coleman said.
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