In the history of golf in Overland Park, two men, Ben Sykes and Wendell Lady played prominent roles. There would be no Overland Park Golf Course if these two former City Council members had not had the vision of what green space and recreational facilities mean to a community.
In the late 1960s and early '70s, Sykes and Lady were instrumental in laying the ground work for what you see today. Their initial plans were for a parks department within Overland Park that would make green spaces available to residents not just in the '70s but in the next century as well. In 1967, they could not have known how those plans would ultimately bring Overland Park so much; parks, pools, golf courses, a children's farmstead and a state-of-the-art soccer complex for citizens and visitors to use and enjoy.
Lady was the City's first Parks and Recreation Committee Chairman, Sykes it's second. Lady, a Republican and Sykes a Democrat worked together on the City Council to make sure the Overland Park's green spaces grew in those early years along with the city's population. Sykes later became Mayor of Overland Park and Lady went on to serve as a State Representative. In their political positions, both men worked tirelessly to spread the word of the necessity and the benefits of having a viable public parks system.
In 1967, Lady was a leading advocate and worked toward passing the first bond issue that would provide for a parks system. Sykes, who held the belief that neighborhood parks were important, was also an avid golfer and worked with Lady to get the funding for the construction of a golf course on that ballot. Both men campaigned vigorously. While the parks and pools portion was accepted with well over 1,000 votes, the golf course issue narrowly passed with only an 80 vote margin. Golfers have been enjoying playing the course since it was established in 1971, thanks to Sykes and Lady and a mere 80 other golfers who wanted a place to play in Overland Park.
Another important vote was held in 1971. Larry Flatt, Director of Parks and Recreation at the time, had the opportunity to purchase, for $1 million dollars, 280 acres of land along 135th Street. By this time, Lady had moved on to the Kansas House of Representatives and it was Sykes' job, as Chair of the Parks committee, to convince the other council members to do this. Lady, now serving on the State Park Authority Board and was able to help Flatt and Sykes with an important grant application. The city was awarded the Land Water and Conservation Fund (LWCF). That grant meant that Overland Park would only have to pay half of the acquisition costs. Even with this additional funding, all of Sykes sales skills were required to convince the council members to approve this. It was a tough sell and only passed the council by one vote. That land today is the St. Andrews golf course, the skate park, Community Park, Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead and the Soccer Complex.
As the years passed, Sykes continued his ardent support as did Lady.
Ben Sykes passed away in 1988. Wendell Lady is still a strong supporter and continues to play golf at Sykes/Lady Overland Park Golf Course.