Watch for columns from Baylor alumnus and pro golfer Jerry Smith each month on GoBaylorBears.com.
May 29, 2002
Hello again! Yes, it is time for another edition of Inside the PGA Tour. I thought this month I would take a look inside Baylor Golf.
First, I must congratulate Tim Hobby and his team for being the first Baylor squad to qualify for the NCAA Championship. What a great accomplishment for such a young group of players. I think this is the beginning of many great things for Baylor Golf. Tim has obviously recruited some very talented young men and been able to blend that talent into what is likely the best team in the program's history. I hope this will be the new standard by which future teams will be measured. Sic 'em Bears in Columbus!
Baylor Golf has made tremendous strides since I graduated back in 1986. There is a new coach, a new conference, a new facility and a new wave of so-called "young guns" for players. This has all led to Baylor Golf, both men and women, being put on the collegiate map. The vision of Tom Stanton with the assistance of Darryl Lehnus has been instrumental to this development. Thank you both and kudos to all our loyal donors.
Nineteen ninety-seven (1997) marked the start of this transition with the hiring of a fulltime golf coach. With Tim Hobby, you have a former Bear, a young individual with vision himself, an accomplished player in his own right who can recruit talent and a family man with strong roots in the state of Texas.
Sylvia Ferdon has been building the Baylor women's golf program even longer. Sylvia took the helm at Baylor in 1994 and has steadily improved the women's program, leading them to an NCAA Regional berth in each of the past three years.
What Tim and Sylvia have done since being brought on board simply speaks for itself. Tim's predecessor and my former coach, Gene Shelds, is a truly genuine man and one who will be forever remembered by all those who played under him. Gene always had a good joke, a hot pick, the daily crossword and a love for the game of golf. He continues to coach in Waco at the high school level.
The Big 12 Conference was formed in 1996. This was a major wake-up call for the Baylor University. Bringing together the Big 8 Conference with the top four Southwest Conference schools created one of the premier conferences in the country. Since this transition, the Baylor campus has been transformed. Under Tom Stanton's leadership, the Baylor Athletic Department has invested more than $20 million on new and renovated facilities. This has helped lead Baylor to being very competitive in all major athletics and having earned five team championships (men's tennis [twice], baseball, men's golf and soccer).
One of the new Baylor facilities is Bear Ridge Golf Club. As the state's longest measuring golf course, this layout will be a true test for today's long-bombing youth. I've had the privilege of playing Bear Ridge twice and I must say the closing five holes are everything one could want. There are two Par 3 holes, both measuring 200+ yards, and the 16th, a reachable Par 5, will tempt players of all lengths. The remaining two holes are very different Par 4s, the 15th requiring an accurate tee shot with trees on both sides and a creek cutting through the fairway some 260 yards out setting up a short iron approach. The 18th is a long, demanding Par 4 requiring a long drive up the left side between trees and a ravine, setting up one's final swing to an elevated green well trapped with a medium iron.
With the golf course comes the John & Jane Doenor Hall, which provides both golf teams a truly modern-day facility with coaches' offices, reception area, players' locker rooms, indoor practice hitting area and state-of-the-art video. The outdoor practice range is equally impressive with a private putting and chipping green and the capability of hitting balls from multiple tees. This is something Baylor Golf has needed for a long time and will assist the program in getting to the next level of collegiate golf.
Finally, I thought I would write about Baylor golfers and their impact on the game. In 2000, I became the first Bear to join the PGA Tour ranks, which apparently started a trend that should continue for some time. Brian Wilson had his Tour card in 2001, Jason Hill became a member this year and Kory Bowman, Jimmy Walker and Worth Williams should add to the list. Though I have not played with all the current team members, I do believe sophomore Adam Meyer will continue his impressive play.
There are countless other former Bears who also have ties to the game. Tom Cismoski and Mike Chisum are PGA Tour representatives for TaylorMade and Titleist, respectively. Chris Coffman and Bobby Rucker are sales representatives for the same companies. Neal Barfield has represented American Golf and is working to break into the ranks as a player agent. There are many more as well who are teachers, club pros and working in other areas of the golf industry.
Clearly, Baylor Golf is not only progressing in the right direction, but has already made a strong impact on the game. I am both proud to be a representative of Baylor Golf and proud of all the others who serve this great game.