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Golf course owner gets death threats over 9/11 promotion

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 6:57 p.m.
An advertisement that appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, offers nine holes of golf for $9.11 to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin golf course owner who advertised nine holes of golf for $9.11 to mark the anniversary 9/11 apologized on Tuesday but said he would keep the club open despite a backlash that included death threats.

Tumbledown Trails Golf Course near Madison advertised the special in the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper on Monday, saying it was intended to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The discount, which also included 18 holes of golf for $19.11, was good for the anniversary on Wednesday only.

News of the offer spread on social media and the golf course's Facebook page was overrun with negative comments. Owner and general manager Marc Watts said he received death threats and threats to burn down the family-operated public golf course. The sheriff's department sent a deputy there Tuesday, and Watts said another officer will be back on Wednesday.

“We're a little hurt by the fact that people are putting such a negative context on this,” Watts said. “I thought people would appreciate it.”

The promotion actually began two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and until now was warmly received as a way to ensure people never forget the tragedy, Watts said.

This year, after the newspaper ad circulated on social media, Watts said the club's phone has been ringing off the hook.

Watts apologized on Monday night on Facebook and was personally fielding calls on Tuesday, saying there was no intention to cause offense. He considered closing the 20-year-old golf course because of safety concerns but decided to keep it open.

“We could close, but then all these people with their negative attitudes, they win,” he said. Watts, who was near tears during an interview, said he spent much of the night throwing up over the backlash.

Lee Ielpi, whose firefighter son died in the attacks, said he understands the backlash from the ad, but he also believes it's important to remember 9/11. Ielpi, speaking in a telephone interview from the 9/11 memorial site, is president and co-founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center.

“I think that any positive event is always beneficial to make sure we remember 9/11,” Ielpi said. “I don't feel slighted by this golf outing.”

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