Carved eagle lands on Carthage golf course

Joseph Leal - Non-Degree Seeking Art Student

Joseph Leal – Non-Degree Seeking Art Student

Every time golfers come to the 14th hole at the Carthage Municipal Golf Course, they get a little glimpse of Missouri Southern talent.

Joseph Leal, 64, a retired prosthetics specialist and University of Arizona professor, attends two night classes at Southern just for the pleasure of art. Now, golfers can enjoy an eagle carved by Leal from a tree scheduled for removal during the course’s renovation. Leal’s wife, Jane, graduated from Southern in 1982 with a master’s degree in nursing.

“I’m not looking for any degrees,” Leal said, “I just want to take advantage of all the education offered for adults.

“It’s a beautiful school. The doors are open, and I don’t understand why more people don’t take advantage of furthering their knowledge.”

Wood carvings started off as a hobby when Leal lived in Colorado, but soon it became another profession.

Leal did not want another profession, but still enjoys creating.

“The excitement is you know you can’t put the wood back on. There’s a fear factor you go through because it’s not like working with clay. If you lop the head off, all you got is a lot of sawdust,” he said.

About three years ago, Leal spoke to Mark Peterson, PGA head professional, about the project. Liking the idea, Peterson approached the Public Service Committee of the Carthage City Council for permission.

“I didn’t see any drawbacks at all,” Peterson said. “I thought it was a great idea. All it does is it gives a little extra character to our golf course.”

Leal spent about four weeks creating the carving and he said he knew what he wanted the moment he saw the tree. Half of Leal’s time was spent socializing with passing golfers.

“Part of the art world is the beauty,” Leal said. “You see the creation before you finish it. You get into a zone where you don’t even identify with yourself.

“You feel it, but if you think about it afterwards you wonder how you did it. That’s the fun part about art.”

The only drawback the golf course is experiencing from the eagle is the fear of vandalism. Peterson and the greens’ keeper expressed their concern, but Leal sees it a different way.

“It won’t be devastating to me, we can make another one,” Leal said. “I have a feeling, though. The eagle represents our freedom, and we’re all conscious of our freedom because it’s being threatened right now. I think this symbol will probably be left alone.

“Even kids think of the eagle as our freedom, and I think that alone will protect it a little.”

After 8 years of special training and college, Leal graduated from UCLA and was certified through his private practice’s national office. When he retired he resorted to playing golf.

“I think it’s more of a disease than a game,” Leal said.