By Bob Arnett
TERRE HAUTE — It’s definitely no accident that Ryan Klopfenstein, Hulman Links’ head professional and director of golf in Terre Haute, developed an interest in golf at an early age. Dave Alumbaugh, Ryan’s stepfather, is the long time course superintendent at Hulman Links and in Terre Haute the name Alumbaugh is synonymous with “golf”.
Dave’s brother, Don, is the course superintendent at Rea Park, whereas another brother, Bill Jr., is the father of Billy Alumbaugh III, who is greenskeeper at Lost Creek at the Elks as well as the professional and greenskeeper at the Marshall (Ill.) golf course. To top it off, the late Bill Alumbaugh Sr., the patriarch of the Alumbaugh family, at one time was the pro-manager of Mathews Park Golf Course in Clinton.
It must have been difficult for five-year-old Ryan and his two-year-old brother Chad to remember names since the Alumbaughs have always acquired more nicknames than a boatload of gangsters. You see, Bill Sr. was always known as “Pops,” Dave is regularly called “Al,” Don is known as “Chick,” Bill Jr. is “Bum” and Billy III has been known as “Wedge Head.” Not to be left out, Ryan is known as “Choppy” whereas Chad answers to “Nutto.”
Ryan didn’t gravitate toward golf at an extremely early age as some might think. In fact, Klopfenstein recalls shooting a score of 105 in the Terre Haute North Invitational as a member of the Patriots’ golf squad during his sophomore year. However, he demonstrated the fact that he was a fast learner by firing a 76 in the same tourney one year later. He also shot a 75 in sectional competition that same year.
Ryan owes much of his improvement to being a member of such a prolific golfing family. In addition, he recalls, “My grandfather Pops and I played in the Firecracker Open at Rea Park every year from the time I was 13 until I reached the age of 22. I also recall practicing on Hulman’s putting green with Gene Verostko for hours at a time, even after it was dark.”
Klopfenstein also remembers, “Two of my chief regrets in high school occurred during my junior and senior years when our North squad failed to qualify for the IHSAA State Finals, I was the team’s No. 2 man my junior year and No. 1 my senior year. The following year, my brother, Chad, was a member of North’s team and they made it to the state finals. Chad has never let me forget that.”
After high school, Ryan received a scholarship from Franklin College, a member of the Indiana College Athletic Conference. He played the No. 5 position during his freshman year before becoming the team’s captain and number one man throughout both his junior and senior years.
The team was ranked nationally in the top 20 among Division III colleges all four years Ryan was a member of the team’s divotmen. He received All Conference honors twice during his college career.
After graduation, he worked six months for Ron Poore Jr. at Forest Park Golf Course in Brazil before accepting an assistant’s position at Houston (Tex.) Country Club where he was reunited with fellow Terre Hautean, J. T. Crawford.
Ryan recalls, “J.T. and I played a lot of golf together. Later, J.T. would take the head pro’s position at Country Club of New Orleans.”
Klopfenstein admitted, “I owe J.T. Crawford a huge debt of gratitude. He has certainly assisted me in numerous ways in my professional career.”
“After Katrina hit, I headed to New Orleans to help him get his course back in shape. After leaving Houston C.C. I was hired at Rochester C.C. in New York, where I worked with former National Amateur Champion Sam Urzetta and his son Mike. The second professional ever to represent Rochester C.C. was Walter Hagen. After a lengthy period away from Terre Haute, I was happy to return home.”
When asked his plans for Terre Haute golf courses, Ryan explained, “Houston Country Club was rated No. 1 in providing services to its members among all the country’s golf clubs. I would like to see our courses adopt that same philosophy. We want to provide the same quality service that the golfer gets at Pebble Beach or Shinnecock Hills.”
“I’d also like to see us sponsor a two-man match play tourney with 36 two-man teams. There are many outstanding players in Terre Haute, and this would make an interesting tournament. Also, we will be hosting the Indiana Assistant Professional’s Championship later this summer.
“We have an excellent staff here. Ed Grayless has been an assistant for 14 years and he does an outstanding job.”
With Ryan Klopfenstein’s background along with the energy and expertise he exhibits in his profession, there is little doubt that he will succeed in making Hulman Links a most viable venue to enjoy golf to it’s fullest on one of the country’s outstanding and demanding golf courses.
It was gratifying to see Darren Clarke knock in a 40-foot putt on the 72nd hole to win the BMW-Asian Open played in Shanghai, China a few weeks back.
After Clarke’s wife died in 2006, the Northern Irishman spiraled from a position among the top 10 golfers in the world ranking to 236. He now hopes to play his way to a position on the European Ryder Cup Team where he has performed so admirably in the past.
Darren’s record includes 11 wins on the European Tour and a 2000 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship when he defeated Tiger Woods in a 36-hole final match.
We have a problem. We have been listing names of those golfers worthy to be pickers and choosers in local, informal competitions.
Now comes an “alleged golfer” who has complained one name on the list should be stricken. The alleged maintains that Wagle would only pick young corn during a famine. This most dastardly accusation has been referred to John Nevins, the newly elected commission of PCAI (Pickers and Choosers of America, Incorporated). We’ll have more on this matter at a later date.
More names of “Pickers and Choosers” are as follows: Palmer, Woods, Nevins, Goeller, Thomas, Dunlap, Grayless, Blair, Ridens, Fuller and Payne. Also Fenoglio, Bensley, Stoner, Bopp, Meneely, Parker, Cox and more to come.
• Tip of the week — Don’t believe everything you read insofar as golf instruction which is included in golf’s leading magazines. If something works for you, I’d advise that you not change it, unless there is a good reason for doing so. Someone once said, “You’ll find good players with a bad swing, but you won’t find bad players with a good swing.” I’d add one word at the end, “usually.”
Bob Arnett can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.