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Community Feature Great Eats and Sweet Treats are Served Up at Tee Time Café

Interview with Tee Time Café Owner Vernon Underwood

Sherry Underwood has been cooking “full-time” since she was 9 years old. She and her husband, Vernon, proprietors of the Tee Time Café and Golf Course in Clearwater, Kan., met when she was just 14 and he was 15. Sherry’s first job was as a carhop at an A&W Drive-In and Vernon’s was as a dish washer at a truck stop. These past 50 years, this dynamic duo have operated everything from drive-ins, restaurants, banquet and convention centers, hotels, cafés, and tea rooms – from Sonics to KFCs to Red Coach Inns!

But on September 17, 2012, an event changed the (golf) course of life for the Underwoods and the Clearwater community. Vernon and Sherry accepted the challenge to open the doors of the Tee Time Café and Golf Course, and it has become a favorite spot for the locals.

Vernon and Sherry love living above the café and clubhouse, located just north of Clearwater. It’s a peaceful, picturesque site overlooking a beautiful patio and pond. And it’s the place where Sherry can freely ply her trade – serving up “great eats and sweet treats” – utilizing the recipes, techniques, and experience acquired over the years.

Sherry abhors preservatives and says, “I do almost everything from ‘scratch.’ I think it makes such a difference in the taste of food, and we always get good compliments on that!” She avoids pre-packaged, processed foods; therefore, she makes her own barbeque sauce and tartar sauce, puts together the soups and chicken salad, and bakes her own roasts, corned beef, and meatloaf. She bakes bread from her own perfected recipe, a cross between French and sourdough. At the Tee Time Café, they hand-cut and hand-bread their meats, including the chicken strips, chicken fried steaks, and catfish. Aside from the shrimp, their meats are fresh – never frozen. Their burgers, chicken fried steaks, homemade bread, pies, and cinnamon rolls are all very popular, but Tee Time’s Oreo Cheesecake is the hottest seller! Sherry shares, “When I start baking on Mondays, I don’t just make one – I make four. It’s a recipe I completely made up myself.”

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, Sherry is even busier with her baking. You can be the hero of the holidays when you order one of her pies or other baked goods, including homemade cakes, cookies, breads, and cinnamon rolls – ready to serve. Vernon says you can’t go wrong with any of her creations, but he especially loves the pecan pie, made with his mom’s recipe.

Vernon and Sherry keep a very busy schedule, serving breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Saturday and dinner Tuesday through Friday. Their SKT services help keep things running smoothly, as they utilize SKT Streaming TV Channel 2 advertising for the café’s specials, golf tournaments, junior golf, and more. In addition, they rely on their SKT landline phone for its features including call forwarding and voice mail, and use SKT’s high-speed Internet for payment processing, communicating, and maintaining their website, teetimegolfandcafe.com.

But besides the golf course and the café, there are two more amazing, and perhaps less known, dimensions to the Tee Time experience – 1) catering and 2) special, reservations-only dinners and teas. They have a special catering menu and can serve any number of people “at your place or mine,” as Vernon likes to say. Each event is unique, and they work with customers to meet their needs while providing guidance that comes with decades of experience. Sherry says, “I don’t think people understand why we close at 2 p.m. on Saturday, but this is why!” They have hosted weddings, graduation and birthday parties, golf benefits, and even a funeral reception at their location, and catered meals at Botanica in Wichita, businesses meetings, family, and community events.

As for their seasonal, reservations-only events, Tee Time Café’s annual “Christmas Tea in the Country” is the perfect excuse to slow down and enjoy the holidays with family and friends. It especially pairs well with a day of shopping. Just imagine this … every crumpet, morsel, and infusion is crafted, baked, and steeped right there – served in a warm, festive holiday setting! No wonder it has become such a popular tradition. Reserve your time Tuesday through Saturday December 7-21 between 2:30 and 5 p.m. The cost is $12 per person.

Watch for other events throughout the year. Tee Time’s Family-Style Chicken Dinners and annual Valentine’s Dinner are not to miss. The chicken dinners are held 2-3 times per year and feature all the best comfort food – pan-fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, baked beans, corn, relish plate, coleslaw, homemade bread, and assorted homemade desserts. Their annual Valentine’s Dinner features prime rib or baked chicken with dressing and all the fixings.

There are several keys to their success. Vernon and Sherry care deeply about their business and their customers. They genuinely enjoy meeting and serving people. They strive for consistency – ensuring that Tee Time is a place where customers can expect a smile and count on the same food, prepared in the same way, every time they dine. Sherry expands, “If it’s not right, we want to fix it.” The Underwoods are also very careful with their inventory – never wanting to have to tell a customer that an item on the menu is not available. Sherry adds, “We pride ourselves in that maybe once or twice in seven years we’ve been out of something.”

Vernon and Sherry Underwood are a good team. Vernon can be found taking orders and serving food, while Sherry is in the kitchen cooking – especially on Saturday mornings when she’s on the grill from 7 to 11 a.m. “It is a very stressful, focused deal,” she exclaims. And likewise, Sherry steps right up to the golf desk while Vernon is out mowing and grooming the golf course – especially in the summer. Any regrets? “We just wish we had been 30 years younger when we started doing this,” Vernon laments.

Be sure to get your holiday bakery orders in early. Thanksgiving orders are due by Monday, November 25, and Christmas orders are due by Saturday, December 21. Sherry will also have a limited selection of their most popular items available in the case leading up to the holidays.

You can find Tee Time Café & Golf Course at 14100 W. 95th Street South in Clearwater. Their hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 5-8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The café is closed Sundays and Mondays. Stop by or call 620.584.3006 to reserve your holiday bakery orders. Their full menu is also available on their website.