Golf club founders achieve quick successBy Joe Klingbeil | 06/15/2016 12:35pm
Photo courtesy of Daniel Ayre
Cole Becker and Lee House walked into the University Recreation Center almost four years ago in the fall of 2012. They had no idea a simple interest meeting put together by an English teacher would serve as the catalyst to the formation one of the region’s most successful club golf teams.
Becker and House were first introduced at that meeting, and House made the decision to sign up to become the club’s first president. At the time, the two former high school golfers were wide-eyed freshman just looking to continue playing the game they loved competitively.
“When I enrolled at Alabama I did not have any idea that I would have created the school’s club golf team,” Becker said. “For as big as Alabama is, I figured there would have already been one.”
House, a Cincinnati native, started playing golf when he was 10 at an old Par 3 course while he received tips and training from a family friend.
“My mother's friend taught me the basic fundamentals of the golf swing,” House said. “I was hooked from that point on.”
Becker grew up playing the game at Tijeras Creek Golf Course, not too far from his home in Orange County, California, and he has been swinging the clubs since he was eight years old.
The two golfers didn't waste anytime getting things started. Under the guidance of english professor Brock Guthrie, who serves as the group's faculty advisor, Becker and House became the founding members of the Alabama golf club team. As presumed, things were slow at first.
The team only fielded a small amount of members and didn't compete in a tournament all semester. It was difficult to recruit members to a team that never participated in a competitive match and did not even have uniforms.
“There were definite struggles, mainly in recruiting and funding,” House said. “Maintaining a steady flow of new players was difficult at first, as we only had eight people to spread information.”
But as talk about the club swirled around campus, thanks to advertisements and Get On Board Day, the team acquired more and more golfers, and in the fall of 2014 the club's membership reached double digits.
Thanks to a generous sponsorship from House’s family, the club was able to get its uniforms and compete in its first ever tournament – which they ended up winning. After that, the two freshman knew they had started something special.
“When we were driving home from the tournament, I was talking to Lee, and we both said that we are going to be good in the future,” Becker said. “And we are going to be good for a long time.”
Since that first tournament, the Alabama club golf team has won seven tournaments and made three national championship appearances at the club level.
On April 24, three years after the club competed in its first college tournament, Becker, House and the rest of the Alabama club golf team walked off the 18th green of Glade Springs Resort Golf Course in Daniels, West Virginia as runner-ups at the National Collegiate Club Golf Association National Championship.
“Taking 2nd at the national championship was unreal,” Becker said. “Lee and I were talking after the tournament with our current president Daniel Ayre, and we were telling Daniel that we never imagined being this good in such a short period of time.”
Ayre, who served as the team’s coach and did not play in the national championship tournament, said this was the team’s biggest moment.
“It was an amazing experience for me to watch most everyone play to their potential,” Ayre said. “It was truly a team effort. This was the team’s 3rd appearance in a national championship, and by far our best finish. It was an extremely exciting weekend for the team.”
As all the clubs on campus do, the golf club has served as a place for students to play the sports they love competitively, but also interact and get to know people they may not meet otherwise.
“The countless hours spent traveling with close friends and memories made on trips to Regional tournaments will remain in my mind forever,” House said. “Through the club golf team, I have built friendships and connections that will last a lifetime, and for that I am extremely grateful."
The club now includes 35 members and takes two teams composed of eight golfers each to every tournament. The golf club has become so notable that the team has even been forced to turn away hopeful golfers looking to join.
“We have also established a community service partnership with the First Tee Program at Ol' Colony Golf Course, “ House said. “The club golf team provides volunteer opportunities for its members and makes an impact on young kids who want to play golf.”
Now, Becker and House have to hang up their clubs and leave Tuscaloosa.
“I do not know what kind of mark I will leave on the club,” Becker said. “I hope that the club team will keep on going for the next years to come and when I come back in 20 years and see that Alabama has the best club team in the nation, I want to know that I helped start this club.”