Longtime public course benefits from private support
In its first year, Friends of the Course provided private support to enable small enhancements at the Ole Miss Golf Course. Supporters hope fellow golfers will join them as they look to build support for future projects.

This week, on the heels of the Ole Miss Men’s Golf team receiving its first bid to the NCAA Golf championships since 2011, the Ole Miss Golf Course would like you to know it’s a great time to support your campus course by becoming a Friend of the Course.

“As an auxiliary unit of the University of Mississippi, the Ole Miss Golf Course relies on greens fees, memberships and standard revenue generated here at the course to fulfill our budgetary needs,” said Tate Anderson, Pro Shop supervisor. “That doesn’t leave much room for supplementary improvements; this is where our Friends come in.”

Individuals can become a Friend of the Course with a minimum annual gift of $250. Friends are recognized on a donor wall in the Pro Shop and receive an attractive high bag tag for their support.

Friends of the Course proceeds in 2014 helped provide new Pro Shop software that gives golfers the ability to register and pay fees online and receive email updates regarding memberships and reservations. Their generous support also provided funding to install a driving range mat to protect the grass during winter months, and grassed a fairway bunker on the 15th hole – something that was prioritized based on customer feedback. 

Customer satisfaction as a public course is the ultimate goal, said David Jumper, assistant director for the course. Jumper heads up the team that maintains the serene landscape considered the course’s top asset.

“We serve every golfer – students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members at-large,” said Jumper. “For what we provide and the quality of our course, our fees are a steal. Our layout is very friendly; it is challenging, has a lot of angulations and the TifEagle Bermuda grass on our greens provides an exceptional putting surface.”

Jumper, Anderson, and Gerald Barron, Pro Shop manager, have been with the course since its 2008 $3.5 million renovation. Reconstruction efforts included green complexes rebuilt to USGA specifications, fairways sprigged with 419 Bermuda grass, new cart paths, a fleet of 60 new golf carts, a state-of-the-art irrigation system capable of pumping out more than 850,000 gallons of water a night, rebuilt sand bunkers, a renovated Pro Shop, doubling the size of the driving range and the addition of back tees on several holes, pushing the course to more than 7,000 yards in length.

“What we have in the Ole Miss Golf Course is the finest public course in the state of Mississippi – and I’ve played on most of them,” said Warner Alford, who has served Oxford and UM in many capacities, including terms as executive director of Ole Miss Athletics and the Alumni Association. “It’s great for us to have a facility that employs students and takes such good care of people. There’s none better.”

Bill Kingery, retired director of UM Campus Recreation after 43 years, is a founding sponsor. Kingery joined Friends of the Course as a way to show his appreciation for the staff that maintains it.

“I was introduced to the game of golf as a teenaged caddy,” said Kingery. “My first time to the Ole Miss course was during the summer of 1971. Back then we didn’t have golf carts, and some days I walked 36 holes and didn’t think a thing about it – those were definitely my younger years.”

Kingery said he and friends still comment on the renovations made seven years ago. “We never thought we would actually have a quality course like we do now. I occasionally play other local courses, but Ole Miss is my home course. It continues to be very reasonably priced compared to other local courses and private clubs. Joining Friends of the Course is a win-win for all of us who enjoy golf and desire to make future improvements to the course.”

Ron Guest, executive director of services at the UM Foundation, is also a founding Friend.

“I have played golf at the Ole Miss Course since I was in high school and appreciate the improvements over the years,” said Guest. “The staff does a great job; they continue to make improvements to keep the course in shape and make playing there a fun experience.  Thousands of students play the course each year and it is a good value and venue for them to get out with friends and enjoy the sport. I know keeping that value and making additional enhancements to the course isn’t easy. Friends of the Course is a way for me to help with that and give back to something that means so much to me and the community.”

Both Kingery and Guest have invited friends to become supporters. Shirley Crawford, administrative assistant at the UM School of Business Administration, happily committed as a Friend of the Course.

“Gerald, Tate, and Mr. Jumper do an excellent job of operating and maintaining the course,” said Crawford.  “My husband Eddie and I have been very fortunate to play there for many years, and we appreciate the opportunity it provides for us to enjoy a game of golf in such a beautiful setting that is so conveniently located.”

In addition to providing a quality course, the course staff also hosts a number of tournaments, many of them fundraisers for university scholarships, fraternity and sorority philanthropies, academic units like the Patterson School of Accountancy or the UM School of Pharmacy plus local churches and organizations. It also accommodates several junior tournaments for kids and teens, high school district tournaments and is set to host the GolfWeek Amateur Tour this weekend.

To become a Friend of the Course or to obtain more information, visit theolemissgolfcourse.com/friends/, or contact Ron Guest at the UM Foundation by phone (662) 915-5907 or email rguest@olemiss.edu.

Katie Morrison