Celebrating IU's tradition of excellence in the ancient and absorbing sport of golf
Scholars Darrell Napton and Christopher Laingen write that during the last quarter of the 20th century, the number of golfers in the United States increased four times faster than the nation’s population, from 10 million to 25 million. These golfers, they write, played nearly 600 million rounds annually on the nation’s 16,000 golf courses—courses that occupy an area as large as the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.1
On this historic day, we celebrate Indiana University's long tradition of excellence in the ancient and absorbing sport of golf, as we dedicate a splendid new course that will benefit the university, its outstanding student athletes, and the general public for many decades to come—the Pfau Course at Indiana University.
Golf at Indiana University
IU's long tradition of excellence in golf began 120 years ago, in 1899, when a group of 12 students formed the Dunn Meadow Golf Club—the first college golf club in the state. As the Arbutus yearbook reported in 1900, "Nature …provided the meadow with all sorts of obstructions, so …the club was spared the trouble of making artificial hazards."2
Though the Dunn Meadow Golf Club was relatively short-lived, by 1916, a primitive six-hole golf course had been built near 10th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, in the space that would later house the original Memorial Stadium and the ROTC Parade Grounds.3,4
In the early 1920s, golf was becoming a popular varsity sport at colleges and universities across the United States, and IU was no exception. The IU men’s golf team competed in the conference tournament for the first time in 1922.
Indiana men's golf has won eight Big Ten Championships since 1962, behind only Ohio State and Illinois, has had 52 athletes earn All-Big Ten honors, has produced eight Big Ten Players of the Year, the second-most in conference history, has had 15 NCAA All-Americans, and has appeared at the NCAA Championships 15 times, including three top-10 finishes.
IU women first participated in golf matches against other Indiana colleges and universities in 1968, as part of the extramural program of the Department of Physical Education for Women.5 Women's golf became a varsity sport at IU in 1975, soon after the passage of Title IX.6
Since that time, IU women's golf: has won seven Big Ten Championships, has had 69 athletes earn All-Big Ten honors, has produced seven Big Ten Players of the Year, has had 8 NCAA All-Americans, and has appeared at the NCAA Championships 11 times, including this year, and has had two top-ten finishes.
IU golfers have had the benefit of learning from outstanding coaches, including, Margaret Cummins, IU's first women's golf coach, and Sam Carmichael, who coached IU men's golf for 9 years and IU women's golf for 23 years, earning a number of Big Ten titles as well as Coach of the Year honors.
Alumni of both the men's and women's programs—including Shaun Micheel, winner of the 2003 PGA Championship, Jeff Overton, a member of the 2010 USA Ryder Cup Team, and All Americans Erika Wicoff and Michele Redman—have gone on to successful professional careers on the PGA and LPGA tours.
And, of course, over the years, members of both the men’s and women’s teams have excelled in the classroom. Most recently, 13 men's and women's golfers were among the record total of 117 IU student athletes across 10 spring sports who earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition earlier this year.
However, a lack of consistent achievements on the scale of those of the past has been attributed by many to the inadequacies of IU's more than 60-year-old course. Consequently, many have called for years for a wholesale renovation of IU's course to a standard of excellence that would enable IU’s men’s and women’s golfers to once again consistently achieve at the highest levels.
This is, by the way, a situation with which we are familiar in other areas at IU outside of Athletics, and we have sought to rectify similar situations through the construction of new, state-of-the-art facilities across the university over the last decade.
And so, through the generosity of Ned and Sue Pfau and other donors, the long-awaited transformation of IU's golf course has now been made possible. This beautiful new course will challenge IU golfers to strengthen their skills, to achieve at the highest levels, and it will help IU recruit the next generation of outstanding young golfers. Indeed, it will serve as a rigorous test for championship-level players from IU and around the Big 10, while also providing a wonderfully enhanced facility for passionate golfers of all ages and skill levels, including alumni and others from around the state and the Midwest region.
There is a long list of people to whom we owe enormous debts of gratitude for helping us reach this moment, and, in thanking them, we must, of course, begin with the family for whom the course is named, the Pfau family.
Earlier this year, we announced that IU alumni Ned and Sue Pfau had made a generous gift that to help fund the renovation of the golf course, and that, in recognition of their gift, the course would be permanently named the Pfau Course at Indiana University.
On behalf of Indiana University, I want to once again express how deeply grateful we are to Ned and Sue for this wonderful gift and for their longstanding support of IU and of IU Athletics. We will hear from Ned in a few moments, but would all of you please join me once again in expressing our most sincere thanks to Ned and Sue Pfau with a vigorous round of applause.
I also want to extend the university's most sincere thanks to IU alumnus George Thomas, Jr. and his family. In recognition of a generous gift of $2 million from George, the magnificent new clubhouse at the Pfau Course has been named the George Thomas Clubhouse, in honor of George's late father, George Thomas, Sr., who had a remarkable 47-year career as a PGA professional and a 13-year career as the men's golf coach at the University of Notre Dame. All five of his children attended IU, including sons David and Joe, who were members of the IU men's golf team. Would you please join me in expressing our thanks to George Thomas, Jr. and the members of his family?
The construction of the Pfau Course at Indiana University would also not have been possible without the generosity of the project's Founding Donors. The Pfau Course's 18 holes have been named in honor of families who gave at the highest level. Many of them—as well as other Founding Donors of the Pfau Course—are with us today. I ask all of them to stand for our recognition, and would you join me in a round of applause to express our thanks.
I also want to commend Athletics Director Fred Glass and his staff—including men's head golf coach men's, Mike Mayer, and head women's coach, Clint Wallman—as well as their current and former players and assistant coaches—for all they have done to help make this project a success.
I also want to commend the many design and construction professionals, both internal and external, who have overseen the construction of this splendid new course. In particular, I want to express our thanks to golf course architect Steve Smyers and Indiana golf legend, Fuzzy Zoeller, for their role in designing the layout of the wonderful new course. I also want to express our thanks to architect John Dierdorf, who designed the magnificent new George Thomas Clubhouse, and who is with us today.
In the words of philosopher Matthew Beard, a fellow of the Ethics Centre in Sydney, Australia: "All the way back to the ancient Greeks, the entire purpose of sport was to test character and practice overcoming challenges and struggles in a fictional, contrived environment. [That was] so that when we were faced with challenges in the real world, we would be able to overcome them there as well."7
For IU student golfers—and for the general public—the Pfau Course at Indiana University will be just such a place—one where golfers can test their character and prepare to overcome real-world challenges.
On this magnificent course, IU student athletes will also learn the importance of respecting others, playing by the rules, and balancing their commitment to their sport with their commitment to their studies.
Here, IU student-athletes will demonstrate the dedication, pride, and resilience that are the hallmarks of Indiana University athletics.
All of us look forward to witnessing their athletic and academic triumphs and their continued personal growth.
- Darrell E. Napton and Christopher R. Laingen, "Expansion of Golf Courses in the United States," Geographical Review, Volume 98, Number 1, January 2008. 24.
- 1900 IU Arbutus yearbook, as quoted in "When Dunn Meadow was a Golf Course," Bloomington Telephone, April 5, 1930, 5.
- Burton Dorr Myers and David Demaree Banta, History of Indiana University, Volume 2, (Indiana University, 1952), 206.
- J. Terry Clapacs, Indiana University Bloomington: America's Legacy Campus, (Indiana University Press, 2017), 331.
- Ibid., 142.
- Matthew Beard, as quoted in Phil Mercer, "Australia Cricket Scandal: A Body Blow to an Incredulous Nation," BBC News, March 26, 2018, Web, Accessed August 12, 2019, URL: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-43537767.