Former Mizzou Golfer Puts Hobby to Business

1 decade 7 months 1 week ago Tuesday, May 08 2007 May 8, 2007 Tuesday, May 08, 2007 6:59:04 PM CDT May 08, 2007 in Sports
The stroke of golf balls are a familiar sound for Jeff Whitfield. He's heard them since he was ten years old."I just was very fortunate to have the opportunity to play this nine hole golf course and when I was an early teenager we'd have a group of us that would go around it four or five times a day almost everyday," said Whitfield, the General Manager at Old Hawthorne Golf Club.

Playing for Parkway Central High School in St. Louis, Whitfield won a state golf title in 1973, "We had a consecutive win streak where we didn't lose a match from about the middle of my freshman year to the middle of my senior year," Whitfield said.

Transferring from Auburn University to MU in 1977, he kept winning and in 1980 he finished First Team All-Big 8 and won the Phil Cotton Invitational here in Columbia which wasn't easy considering the equipment of the day.

25 years ago, Persimmon Woods were the premiere woods in golf, with about a half-inch square for a sweet spot. Today the clubs are about three times as big and the sweet spot is about three times as big as well, so you can hit the ball all over the club face and still be safe. In fact when they first started making metal woods they would put the screws in the club face just for the novelty of it. So even still when somebody crushes a drive you'll hear them curse, you hit that one right between the screws.

But playing golf for a living wasn't Whitfields original intention. "After finishing my playing career at Missouri there was an opportunity to turn pro and it seemed like the right thing to do and I got into the golf business on that other side and it was kind of nice to have a perspective of both sides of a golf operation."

This led him to his first design project. Persimmon Woods in St. Louis which hosts a number of events, including the Division III Men's National Championship. "So it's a good tournament golf course," Whitfield said. "And it gave me a lot of experience and was a big asset in putting this project together."

That project became Columbia's newest living community and golf course. The club at Old Hawthorne, which is also the new home of the Missouri Men's and Women's golf teams. Whitfield believes the course and the group of former players that still contribute to the team can only help the Missouri golf program. "It's a great little fraternity of the former players and again this might be a vehicle that we can help grow that fraternity and help support the program for years to come."

It's the promise of those years that Whitfield really loves. "We're just looking forward to the relationships and having a lot of great golf story's to tell."

The practice facility is also an impressive sight at Old Hawthorne including two 12,000 square foot practice greens, one for the members and one for the golf teams. Whitfield plans to open the course May 19th.

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