Each spring, the eyes of the world are on Dublin as the Memorial Tournament is played at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
Since the first Memorial Tournament was held in 1976, it has created community-wide, year-round dedication to the sport, evident also at the Golf Club of Dublin and the Country Club at Muirfield Village, two courses that have endured the waning economic downturn. And golf has groups of avid participants in the high schools, at least one middle school and the Dublin Community Recreation Center.
Thousands will see 120 players from around the globe in the Memorial, which begins play on May 30, and thousands more will fly and drive in to watch 24 international players in the four-day Presidents Cup, which begins play Oct. 3 after a day and a half of practice.
Those galleries doubtless will include many who wish they could match the prowess of the pros as they take on the 18-hole Golf Club of Dublin. The club, wending through the Ballantrae neighborhood, books 42,000 rounds of golf each year, easily the most in the Dublin area.
Roy Hobson, general manger, is with Arnold Palmer Golf Management, which runs the Golf Club. The city owns the land on which the British-links layout sits. The course was designed by Hurdzan/Fry Golf Design and opened in 2002 as Ballantrae was being developed.
Reduced greens fees for Dublin residents – $39.95 to $57.95, depending on the day of the week in the summer – include a cart, a couple beers, lunch and practice range usage.
The club hosts a multitude of special programs, Hobson says, in keeping with its goal of providing fun, a friendly staff and top course conditions, and monitoring play to keep it moving, all to enhance the experience.
“We’re reaching out to the community. It’s really not that complicated,” Hobson says.
The course is home to two high school tournaments – Dublin Coffman’s and Dublin Jerome’s – that each bring in 90 golfers, as well as the annual Dublin City Championship, held each July on British Open weekend, with the winner receiving a replica of the Claret Jug that’s awarded to the Open victor. Each city high school team plays at least one match a year on the course and uses the practice facilities there.
Monday through Thursday evenings see league play. Dublin Youth Athletics has six Sunday evening outings to introduce youngsters to the game.
“They can learn and play at their own pace,” Hobson says.
In June and July, children ages 4 and up who are involved in Dublin Community Recreation programs receive lessons, and 7-15 year olds get to play during their one-week, five-class session.
Add to that the “give it a try” program through the Recreation Center for up to 25 people who want to learn the game. They get a series of lessons from pro Jared Wong and a chance to play a few holes each Wednesday. It began as a women’s program, but has become co-ed, says Kelly Link, the center’s sports supervisor. New this summer will be a pair of week-long Community Center-organized camps for as many as 36 14- to16-year-olds that include golf at the club, as well as swimming and tennis at nearby city facilities.
The Country Club at Muirfield Village, across Muirfield Drive from the Golf Club, was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and has become a hub of activities, golf being the main one.
It has about 350 golfing members, 95 percent of whom live in Dublin within 5 miles of the course, and it handles 22,000 rounds of golf in an eight-month season, says golf pro Josh Manning.
“We have the best junior golf program in the state of Ohio,” he says, pointing out two alumni, Kyle Reifers and Chris Wilson, are aspiring pros while many others are on golf teams at major universities around the country.
The clubs hosts spring and fall clinics and a six-week summer league for youngsters, many of whom are playing tournaments all over the country during the summer.
A Wednesday night women’s league offers non-competitive play.
“They don’t have to worry about scores,” Manning says.
On Thursday evenings, 30 two-member teams compete in a nine-hole men’s league.
During the year, the club hosts about 10 corporate or charitable outings on Mondays with as many as 140 participants. Events for members include member-member, member-guest and member-child competitions.
Manning says the three high schools’ teams can play matches on the course, but access is controlled due to high demand.
Dublin Jerome is a golfing powerhouse, with multiple state championships for both boys and girls teams under its belt. It has three boys teams, and the girls create a team for each match from as many as 20 players. Jerome’s A boys team has won the Division I state championship four times, including the past two under coach Craig Zesiger. Jerome Coach Charles Butcher’s girls have won back-to-back state titles as well and three over all.
Dublin Coffman has the same number of teams and has been somewhat successful in league play. Dublin Scioto has two boys and one girls team. None of the high schools has a home course; all three play on courses in and around the city. Butcher says summer passes are bought at area courses for players.
“There is no doubt the whole community embraces golf because of the Memorial Tournament,” says Dave Woodmansee, Coffman golf coach and a Dublin resident since the 1970s. “The support for the event and golf has continued to grow with our community … (and) has really been a big part in making the Dublin high school programs so successful.”
Parents, Manning says, are strong supporters of youth golf and many play themselves.
“People love their golf,” he says.
A Recreation Center league for 72 seniors age 55 and older plays nine holes all summer on Wednesday mornings through Sept. 15 at the Riviera Golf Club, across Avery Road from the country club. High schools practice and play there some, too.
In 1971, while Nicklaus’ course was still in the long-range planning stages, the American Italian Golf Association built Riviera on a 200-plus acre farm field along Avery Road. For a time, the Riviera kitchen helped supply food for Muirfield Village Golf Club events. While its future is uncertain due to financial issues, the club is geared to continue operating at least this year, hosting several leagues and outings, one member says.
To polish their game or try to get better by simply smacking golf balls without chasing them on a course, Dublin golfers can visit SportsOhio, which has a driving range and a par 3 course that can be played with a wedge and a putter.
Duane St. Clair is a contributing editor. Feedback welcome at email@example.com.