Jim Connell

Change is difficult for me.

My wife and children will tell you that.

I put labels on the shelves in our pantry at home, spelling out which shelves are for bread, for baking items, for breakfast foods, etc. One way they enjoy sending me into a funk is to put a box of cereal on a shelf labeled for pasta and rice, for example.

But my latest life change —coming to work as the sports editor at the Branson Tri-Lakes News — has been an easy one.

There are a lot of reasons for that.

The biggest one is the people involved.

I worked for nearly 21 years at the Springfield News-Leader, in a variety of news and sports positions, both writing and editing, before my position was eliminated in May. For a good chunk of that time, Cliff Sain worked about 20 feet away from me.

When he called to gauge my interest in joining the team at the Branson Tri-Lakes News, I perked up instantly.

Same when I ran into John Robinson at a farmer’s market in Springfield over the summer and we talked about him coming back to the area and working at the Tri-Lakes News.

Now I sit about 12 feet from Cliff and 8 feet from John.

The vision shared by Publisher Keith Hansen is easy to get on board with. He sees newspapers and media companies as a growth industry, as long as you approach and attack it the right way.

That will be a welcome change for my professional setting.

But perhaps the biggest drawing card to this new chapter in my work life has to do with the people I will be working with in the community here.

Like Steve Shepherd and all the coaches and student-athletes at College of the Ozarks. Steve and I had a great working relationship when he was coaching at Parkview High School, and I was just starting out as the high school sports coordinator at my former stop.

It seems like a million years ago, when we were watching from the sidelines as Matt Miller drained 3-pointers by the dozen in post-practice individual workouts. We all have a few more miles on us since then.

There are the many coaches at Branson, Hollister and all of the high schools in this region who do things the right way, and I am well-aware of them from my former stop.

The student-athletes are at the core. They have the great stories I’m so eager to tell, both from on-field exploits and accomplishments, to their off-field stories.

The Ballparks of America facility is another crown jewel of the Ozarks, bringing families from around the country and even internationally here and introducing them all to everything the region has to offer.

You’ll see me out and about at area games, practices and in the area. If you have something you’d like to see in the Tri-Lakes News, let me know. I want to hear what you want.

Shoot me an e-mail (jconnell@bransontrilakesnews.com) and give me your feedback. We’re all in this together, and we can all succeed together.

One of the highlights at my former stop was working with Kirk Elmquist and Johnny Morris, everyone at Bass Pro Shops and Big Cedar Lodge, and showcasing the blossoming area golf scene.

There is something special happening here, and it starts with the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge pulling the curtain back to show the world what this area has to offer.

Not just golf-related, but fishing and hunting, outdoor living and the gorgeous God-given beauty of life in the Ozarks.

The golf is not just about that one week in April, either.

What Morris and the people at Big Cedar Lodge and Bass Pro Shops are putting together is destined to become a golf destination to be known and celebrated nationwide, and even world-wide.

From Top of the Rock and the Springs Course at Buffalo Ridge, to the Gary Player Mountaintop Course, to the coming attractions of the Ozarks Course, designed by the widely respected Coore and Crenshaw design firm, and Payne’s Valley, the work of Tiger Woods Design, there is no limit to what this region can become in the golf world.

I’m humbled and excited to be along for that ride, as well.

So pantry-shuffling aside, maybe this change thing isn’t so bad, after all …

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