It was my editor’s idea. “Find an old golf course,” he said, “one that’s being renovated. Hook up with the architect and see if he’ll let you hang out with him. Follow the project from beginning to end and write it up as a series.” My editor even had a name for the series: This Old Course.
I thought it was a good idea. And once I had found my run-down golf course — The University of Florida Golf Course in Gainesville, Fla. — I thought it was a great idea. It was great because in the early months of 2001, whenever I saw an ice storm bearing down on Kansas City, I booked a flight to Gainesville. “They’re tilling on Tuesday,” I’d tell the office. Or, “They’re shaping the tenth green.” Six hours later, I’d be hitting range balls under the lights in central Florida.
Anyway, my editor’s idea turned into a 16-part series that ran in Sports Illustrated Golf Plus. We had a wonderful cast of characters: architect Bobby Weed, design associate Scot Sherman, athletic director Chip Howard, men’s golf coach Buddy Alexander, project engineer Jay Brown, construction superintendent Tom Weber, course superintendent Mark Birdsell, office manager Alaina Wesserling, shaper George Ross, turf farmer Jimmy Allen, two dozen Mexican laborers, 16 eager interns, one endangered plant species (Trillium maculatum) and — hovering over the plowed-up landscape like a stern deity — the ghost of Donald Ross.
Oh, the editor’s name was — and is — Jim Herre.*
* Their photography does not appear with the SI Vault versions below, but shooters David Walberg, Greg Foster and Bill Frakes performed brilliantly. We could have — nay, should have — published a This Old Course coffee table book.
THIS OLD COURSE: