I know the Mouth has already written about SBU’s course, but since our alma mater has not one, but two teams playing in the NCAA Tournament this week, we hope you’ll accommodate our redundant pride.
I still remember the first time I learned of the St. Bonaventure course in the fall of 1987.A high school senior, I was taking campus tour on one of those picture perfect days – warm and sunny with the trees at peak color. I had already decided this was the place for me. But as our group was moving between Friedsam Library and the Shay-Loughlin complex, I noticed several golfers teeing off across the railroad tracks.
“What course is that?” I asked the guide.
“That’s the campus golf course.”
“We have our own course? How much is it to play?”
“$1 for students.”
I was in heaven. I had just picked up the game a few months earlier, and was already addicted. Growing up in Chaffee, my nearest course was Turkey Run – almost 15 minutes away. Now, the first tee was a short walk away. I moved onto campus in August 1988, and was on the first tee 5 minutes after the parental good-byes.
As Mouth noted, SBU GC is not a spectacular championship challenge, as the SBU Golf team contested its matches at Bartlett Country Club in Olean. But, for students looking to have fun and enjoy rounds with their friends, it was ideal.
The course featured many short holes, including 4 potentially drivable par 4s, and reachable par 5s. But, lurking around these easier holes was potential for unexpected high scores in the form of OB or severe slopes. This allowed exciting skins games among students who were adept at the game, but still let “once a year” friends join you without too much frustration.
But the same easy course included a meaty 239 yard finisher, as well as our nominated hole – the uphill, 360 yard 7th.
I was paired with a local who guided me on my initial round. Through 6 holes, the course had been fun and relatively easy, when my partner said “here comes one of the toughest holes in Western New York.” The yardage on the card belies the effective playing distance, and also fails to give you a sense of the potential for “reloading” (without losing a ball).
The 7th green is perched beautifully in a natural setting, some 40 feet above the drive zone. I held my breath on every approach during my college years, just waiting for the ball to land, hopefully out of sight. If you saw your ball land, it meant you were short of the green, and the ball had a high probability of coming back to you. The scene of the slow 100+ yard roll back is memorable, usually accompanied by anguished pleas of “Stop!” or “hit a twig!”
But on those occasions when the ball cleared the front edge, it was always a thrill making the climb. The anticipation built with every step as you eagerly awaited the “reveal” of a potential birdie putt. With gorgeous views of the campus & surrounding valleys, the 7th green is one of my favorite places on earth.
If you’ll indulge my stroll down memory lane:
– Donning construction helmets with Joe Keefe for our walks to the course, to avoid construction debris or, in one case, a crane leaning perilously towards Loughlin Hall (students usually were discouraged from this shortcut during construction, but my uncle was a DOT supervisor working on the project).
– One-club days, including a magical round of 43 with putter only (again, instigated by Joe Keefe). Joe’s other idea of tennis balls in the snow was less of a success.
– Convincing tourney organizers that a tie in the BBA Open (4 man scramble) shouldn’t be settled by a match of cards. The Playoff was, and probably will be, the largest crowd I’ve ever played in front of, with nearly 100 faculty, accounting recruiters, and students.
– Screams of “fore” or “oh, crap” from the 2nd tee, which usually meant the dent collection on the clubhouse wall was about to expand. This wall is a lasting legacy spanning multiple generations of SBU students – the Golf version of a Jackson Pollack installation.
– Sitting on the 5th tee bench with my 2nd Shay gang on a Friday afternoon near sunset. A perfect setting when we all just stopped and really took note of how blessed we were.
– My wedding weekend with Mrs. Scrambler in the fall of 2008. We held a Cocktail Reception in the Clubhouse the night before and pulled together a “reunion” round the morning of the wedding with Best-Man Matt Pearson & lifelong bad influence Joe Keefe. I managed to par the final hole of my single golfing life.
I hope all you St. Bona Alums & locals can add your memories of the special course in the comment section below.