TERRE HAUTE —
The Terre Haute golf community and the Indiana State women’s golf program can be a thriving partnership, and this week’s Missouri Valley Golf Championships have put that potential on display.
The Country Club of Terre Haute has obviously stepped up to be the host course for the first tournament that ISU’s six-year-old program has hosted.
“The program itself is historic because it’s the first time women’s golf has been at Indiana State University,” Country Club professional Jeff Sheets said. “What we said to them from the very beginning was that anything we could do to make that program be successful, the Country Club was 100 percent behind it. That’s what we’ve tried to do as well as the other courses in town.”
The scoring officials at the tournament were recently working at The Masters in Augusta, Ga., Sheets said. “So they’re pretty high quality,” he added.
Sheets, in his 21st year, said the last tournament at the country club was the Indiana State Seniors, while the Indiana Golf Association Father-Son championship also took place there in the early 1990s.
ISU coach Greg Towne, in his second year at the helm, has enjoyed the opportunity to buck that trend this year. He and other MVC coaches love the challenging holes. The ladies play the men’s blue tees which totals 6,306 yards.
The Sycamores have had the chance to get to know the course this spring prior to the championships.
“This is the first year program’s really played here much. The club’s been very nice about accomodating us. They’ve never turned us down, we play two or three times a week here [during the spring],” Towne said.
Towne is not alone in his praise for the shape the course has been in — even in spite of early-morning frost.
“The superintendent Brad Pugh; I’ve never seen a superintendent work as hard as him to groom a course for a tournament. He’s cutting them twice every day, rolling them. He’s groomed them. He’s done whatever he can to dry them out and make them roll perfect,” Towne said.
The experience on such a well-manicured course could be beneficial down the road, Towne said.
“It’s important for these girls — they don’t play greens this good very often — but when they get in a national championship, it’s important that they get this experience. It doesn’t let you get by with sloppy shots. You have to hit it on the green, has to have some spin on it,” Towne said. “When you throw in this wind like this, you get a putt downhill and it will boogie on ya.”
Northern Iowa coach Joe Bermel loves the site of this year’s MVC, which rotates each year to give every school a chance to be host.
“The golf course is fantastic. It’s in great shape. Youv’e got to hit so many shots. You have to negotiate your way around this course. As soon as you let your guard down, you’re going to double or triple [bogey],” Bermel said.
Towne hopes to turn the Sycamores into a program that can host an annual tournament, whether it’s at Hulman Links or the country club.
“I’d loved to have a tournament here every year. It may be on a rotating basis between public and private. The main reason is this is a big sacrifice for the club, people to give up their facility,” Towne said. “I think all the Valley teams need to have some more of their own tournaments. We don’t really play one another at all during the season.”
With about 60 friendly volunteers on the course each day, Towne said that’s an example of the golf community in Terre Haute’s ability to be a factor to help the city attract tourism dollars. With 10 or more teams of at least five players, may hotel rooms are filled for four days.
Sheets agrees with that and he and the club members are savoring the chance to interact with talented young golfers.
“We’ve had close to 60 volunteers total, both members and non-members. The feedback from the other schools and players has been fantastic,” said Sheets. “The girls on all the programs take the time to go talk to the volunteers and thank them from the time. The girls thank us and tell us it’s a great venue. It’s been a win-win for everybody.”
Indiana State Senior Women’s Administrator Angie Lansing said the Sycamores certainly want to be a tournament host during the spring.
“This shows us that it can be done,” Lansing said Tuesday. “It can be done with the help of a lot of volunteers. It’s great for the girls to have the chance to be at home and have plenty of fans.”
ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman agrees completely.
“The volunteers have been terrific and that is the true reflection of the Terre Haute golf community,” Prettyman said. “It’s been really neat to see the golf community in Terre Haute step up to welcome these visitors from around the Midwest.”
Prettyman is also supportive of Towne’s ambition to host a regular-season tournament.
“We’d very much like to see that happen,” Prettyman said. “That’s something we’d need to work closely with the courses in town to make sure of availability and their desire to work with us. It would be a great chance to invite some of the Indiana schools and some of the regional schools, highlight our town and highlight our golf community to the whole Midwest.”