I was saddened to hear from an administrator and multiple non-golf coaches in the Mount athletic department this week that the men's and women's golf programs may be on the chopping block after the 2010 - 2011 season. As a five-year member (sophomore redshirt) of the men's golf team I was both hurt and baffled at why this would even be a consideration.
I don't know how much scholarship money the women's team receives but it's probably comparable to the barely-more-than one full scholarship that is doled up among the men's players. Combine that with the coaches salaries of somewhere around $12,500 each, and the school would be saving around $100,000 - $110,000, not including each team's (minute) budget.
One hundred Gs is not that much for a longstanding private institution such as the Mount. On top of that, there are many benefits that far outweigh the money that could be saved by axing the programs. Here are five of them:
1. Business purposes
Rest assured that if the golf teams were axed, Quail Valley would disassociate itself from the Mount. (More on that to come.) The golf course is a great place to do business and develop relationships. Many Mount coaches and employees enjoy spending time on the links and to take away the opportunity to do so at Quail Valley would be detrimental to one of the Mount's greatest avenues to get to know each other, as well as potential clients/donors/and alumni.
Just ask Tom Gosselin (women's soccer coach) and Rob Ryerson (men's soccer coach), who had their annual soccer scramble at the course last week. They may still be welcome in the future, but perhaps not with open arms.
2. Coaches like it
Coach Jim Phelan played golf, so does coach Milan Brown, and just this week coach Robert Burke told me he likes to play when he has the chance. Not to mention all the other head coaches and assistants that can be seen at Quail on occasion.
The ownership duo of brothers Colyn and Scott Keller charge a marginal price, if any, for Mount coaches and employees to tee it up no matter what time of day or day of the week they show up. We know that none of the coaches are getting paid very much for the NCAA Division I level (not even Burke), so the last thing they want to do is pay full price for a round of golf. Consider that money already being saved.
3. Both teams play and practice for free
As long as I was apart of the team, and all the time before I arrived in which Quail Valley was the team's official course, the Kellers have never charged the players or the school for the use of the facilities. Whether it's 6 a.m. or primetime on the weekends, if we as players wanted to use the driving range, practice green or play on the course (granted there was space) we were welcome to do so. If you think that's a common occurrence you don't understand college golf. Unless a school has its own course, which usually only applies to BCS schools, it has to pony up a few thousand dollars so that its team can get on the course, and that still does not grant them free reign in most cases. (Consider this money saved as well.)
Take, for example, fellow NEC member Long Island. Playing with one of their players, Rocky Co, in our home spring tournament held at Quail Valley, he was shocked to hear about all the access we have to the course. He told me that his team gets to play a course maybe twice a week and it has to wake up at 4 a.m. in order to beat the traffic on the way there. So relatively speaking, things could be worse.
Did I mention that LIU is the only fully-funded golf team in the conference and by far the most wealthy?
4. The Kellers are connected
Colyn may not have been the most organized coach (we had him for one year when I was a senior) and Scott (who is now the women's coach) wasn't a DI player like his brother, but they make up for those shortcomings in all the other areas. In addition to being the ones who allow our teams to have free reign of their course, they also give us a good reputation.
As childhood residents of Frederick and grandchildren to former New York Yankee Charlie Keller - they know some people around here. To upset them by cutting the golf team and essentially all ties to the course that has given so much to the school would not be wise.
5. Not taking up any space on campus
Last but certainly not least is the fact that neither golf team has any facilities whatsoever on campus. In case you're not familiar with Quail Valley Golf Club, it's in Littlestown, Pa. That's about 20 minutes from our Emmitsburg campus and well out of the way of the school. So why cut the one program that costs the school the least and takes up zero space in the same state as the school it represents? I have no idea either.
Am I biased? Of course I am. I spent five years with this program and it was the reason I came to the Mount. Not for the program itself (my first coach, who was there for three years before Colyn, and now Kevin Farrell, was a joke) but because it was the program that gave me the best opportunity to get playing time and receive a significant scholarship.
To take that away from me and all the other past players who cared would be a mistake for the reasons above. But even more than that, it would make me even less likely to support a school that can so easily discard the part of it that brought me to Emmitsburg.
If you'd like to show support or lend a hand, e-mail Scott Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org. He doesn't know I put his e-mail out there, so take the time to explain yourself.
If you'd like to play Quail Valley call 717-359-8453 to book a tee time.