News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 29, 2010

On and Off the Course: Trends show golf in decline

By Jennifer Myers
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — You don’t have to watch the news or read the paper to understand that America is struggling on the economic front.

The evidence can be witnessed at the local golf course.

The trend in the number of rounds played in the U.S. has been going down since 2000. There were 518.4 million rounds played that year, 499.6 million in 2005 and 489.1 in 2008. In 2009 play on public courses was down .3% and down 1.8% on private courses. Part of those numbers is due to the weather, and part to the economy. But another part that should be in the discussion is the aging population.

Baby boomers are reaching retirement age, and maybe the combination of fixed incomes and health issues, is keeping them off of the golf course. It’s not just baby boomers that concerns me though. It’s the lack of interest by younger players (and by younger I don’t just mean juniors! I’m thinking of the people in their 20s and 30s who aren’t playing golf too).

If the trends are already downhill, where will the golf industry be in 15 to 20 years? According to the NGF (National Golf Foundation), between 2005 and 2008 the number of golfers age 6-17 dropped 24 percent to 2.9 million from 3.8 million. What’s scary though, is that during this period of decline, the numbers of juniors being introduced to the sport is increasing, if we view the growth of The First Tee as an indication. The First Tee is a national program aimed at introducing younger players to golf, and along with it teaching sportsmanship, respect and other life lessons. There are now 200 First Tee Chapters in the U.S., which oversee programs for 400,000 school-age children. So 1.6 million children will be exposed to golf through elementary school gym classes. The First Tee has made great headway in reaching younger kids; the problem is keeping them interested as teenagers.

Before there was such a thing as The First Tee, kids were typically introduced to the game by their parents or grandparents. The success of those outings deemed whether or not a child would stay interested in the game. The way to make those outings successful was to have a relaxed time, without pressure, and particularly without being yelled at for being slow or in the way.

That’s where the problem really lies. Even though many new courses are being built, they are likely to be surrounded by property development, so the developer wants to build a course that is long and tough, so that adults will want to play that course and build a house alongside it. These kinds of courses are not the kind that are good for beginners.

When a child became relatively capable of playing golf, the thing that really kept him or her playing was when they had a group of friends to go out and play with. Competition with team sports is making it a lot more difficult for the golf industry.

The Terre Haute parks department has changed its junior rates in such a way that, I think it discourages grandparents or parents to take a child.

At both Rea Park and Hulman Links it costs $10 for a junior to walk either nine or 18 holes, but they pay full price, $26, if they ride a cart with an adult. I understand the logic in that, and I would never recommend to anyone to take a child out to Hulman Links in the first place. Hulman Links could scare a beginner away from the game for life! Rea Park might be too busy to be the ideal place for beginners — but find the slow times.

In Terre Haute, Marks Par Three and Trinity Golf Course at The Fore Seasons are wonderful courses for juniors and beginners. Trinity has 6 par 4’s and 3 par 3’s. Kids 14 and under play for $6 if they walk, $12 if they ride with an adult. At Mark’s Par Three juniors 14 and under cost only $5 when accompanied by an adult. They can play for free on Mondays after 6 p.m. when accompanied by an adult.

If trends are going to change for the better for golf, we will need for the economy to improve surely, but we also need to pay attention to our junior players. They will grow up and be adults someday, and then the hope is that they’ll play the game and pay full price for it!

• • •

• Quote of the Day — “If you really want to get better at golf, go back and take it up at a much earlier age.” -- Thomas Mulligan.

• Congratulations —  llen Royse Lapierre, former golfer at Terre Haute South, was inducted into the DePauw University Hall of Fame.

While at DePauw, she earned four varsity letters for women’s golf. She played in the National Golf Coaches Association Division III tournament all four years, and led the team to a second-place finish in 1991 and third place in 1990 and ‘92. She earned all-American honors in ‘92 and ‘93 after placing sixth and ninth at the national championship.

Jennifer Myers can be reached by e-mail at jfmyerse@xsthe.net.

Vigo County Golf Leagues

Terre Haute Savings Bank Senior Men — National Division standings: (May 26) Local 103 208, Fore Seasons Golf Complex 199, Complete Kitchen and Bath 182, Paitson Bros. 179, Lough Bros. 178, TH Savings Bank 108. Low gross: Frank Hoffman 38. Low net: Dick Kackley, Mike Myers, Bob Stokes 31. American Division standings (May 26): Gurman Container 191, VFW No. 972 184, Salt of the Earth 182, Tabco 182, Poplar Flower Shop 171, Spring Clean Car Wash 164, Baesler’s Market 156. Low gross: Herb Jones 39. Low net: Ken Eble 33.

(Previous week) National Division standings (May 19): Fore Seasons Golf Complex 154, Local No. 103 150, Lough Bros. 139, Paitson Bros. 136, SMC 129, Complete Kitchen and Bath 124, Terre Haute Savings Bank 78. Low gross: Jim Gormong 38, Low net: Charlie Williamson 35. American Division standings (May 19): Gurman Container 150, VFW No. 972 143, Salt of the Earth and Tabco 135, Baesler’s Market 125, Spring Clean Car Wash 124, Poplar Flower Shop 114. Low gross: David Thomas, Allen Griggs and Ray Collins 39. Low net: Dick Aquino 29.

Paitson’s Eastend Ladies — Standings: Natalie’s Consignment Furniture 183, Krock Racing 170, Dorsett Mitsubishi and Coaches Corner 161, Louise’s Fine Dining and Cafe 157, Advanced Chiropractic 156, Baesler’s Market 149, Turner Coach 143. Low gross: Marge Kintz 41. Low net: Julie Jordan and Penny Schafer 32. Play of the day: Mary Hoy, Kintz.

First Financial Ladies Monday — Standings: VFW No. 1 53, VFW No. 2 44, Baesler’s 37, Shepard’s Gas 27. Low gross: Patsy Miller 50. Low net: MIller 36. Chip-ins: Myrna Handley (1), Virginia Anderson (6). Play of the day: Miller.

Mark’s Par Three Men’s Senior — Standings: Old National Trust 106, Tabco 100, Watts Farms 96, Dorsett Mitsubishi 93, North Siders 92, Larry Helman 90, Dew Drop Inn 81, Vigo Bowl 80, Mattingly Collision 70, Rollie’s Pizza 59. Low gross: Bill Turner 34. Low net: David Hall 24. Closest to pin: Tom Williams (9). Longest drive: Hall (4). Longest putt: Dennis Hays (1).

Rea Park Wednesday Evening Ladies — Standings (May 26): Swalls-Bocard 8, Meyer-Snow 8, Padgett-Bedwell 8, Honselman-Albert 7, Price-Mozley 7, Cannon-Petty 7, Mann-Hyde 7, McCord-Atterson 6, Lanke-Harden 6, T.Johnson-Clements 5, Newton-Pair 5, Horrall-M.Johnson 5, Hamilton-Rusk 4, Durand-Hiatt 1. Low gross: Sharon Hamilton 40. Low net: Sheri Harden 30. Birdies: Leta Hiatt (1), Renee Honselman (1). Chip-ins: Linda Snow (4), Hamilton (5, 8).

Ft. Harrison Ladies 9-hole — (May 25) Low gross: Mid Rusk. Low net: Mary Ann Tackett. Low putts: Tackett. Play of the day: Effie Giffel. Chip-ins: Cathy Pusich, Clarena Matthews, Darby Gugliemetti, Betty McKee. (May 18) Low gross: Gugliemetti. Low net: Mary Shake. Low putts: Gugliemetti. Play of the day: Shake. Chip-in: Gugliemetti.

Rea Park Tuesday Women 18-hole — Low gross: Sharon Horrall 77. Low net: Sharon Hamilton 64. Birdies: Shelva Gaither (1), Hamilton (1), Stacey Bocard (1, 3), Pat Cannon (4), Sandy Stabler (4), Horrall (4, 14), Shawn Durand (8), Stephanie Meyer (14). Chip-in: Myrna Handley (18). Low putts: Horrall 26.

Idle Creek Home Builders Tuesday Evening — Low gross: Roger Meneeley 36. Low net: Lenny Isles and Jack Keidel 33. Closest to pin: Bob Mundy (3), Brian Puttmann (9), Meneeley (8).

Idle Creek Ladies Tuesday Morning — (Team scramble results) First place: Lora Snyder, Michelle Wright, Rita Senseman, Mary Brannen (39). Second place (tie): Katy Drummy, Kate Michaw, Barb Alcock, Susie Colligan (40); Teresa Matchett, Sue Larrison, Candy Lovvron, Cathy Brannen (40). Longest putt: Colligan. Closest to pin: Michaw (12), Lovvron (16).

Idle Creek Terminal Sports and Spirits Wednesday Evening — First place: Dave Rowlett, Cliff Carrithers, Dan Conley (29). Second place: Lucas Mahoney, Zach Wilhoyte, Denise Rowlett (30). Closest to pin: Conley (3), Nate Tompkins (9).