Category: News

Did you know – Ryder Cup has connection to Iowa, Wakonda Club

Zach Johnson (pictured above) will be carrying the flag for the United States, as well as his home state of Iowa, as captain of the United States team at the Ryder Cup this weekend in Rome, Italy.

A native of Cedar Rapids and member of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame, a five-time Ryder Cup player and two-time major champion, Johnson hopes to experience winning the Ryder Cup as a player and captain.

There’s an Iowa connection to that Ryder Cup trophy. It’s a story that starts in 1922, when the Wakonda Club in Des Moines hosted an exhibition to show off its new golf course. Two of Great Britain’s best players, George Duncan and Abe Mitchell, played a match against Wakonda pro Jack Welsh and James Hubbell of Des Moines, the 1916 NCAA champion from Harvard.

Tickets were $1 “to help defray the expense of bringing the star golfers here,” the Des Moines Register reported.

Duncan, the 1920 Open Champion, and Mitchell beat Welsh and Hubbell, 3 and 1. Duncan was medalist with a 75.

“Both Duncan and Mitchell stated that (Wakonda) is a real test of golf throughout,” the Register reported.

American Walter Hagen played Wakonda in an exhibition shortly after Duncan and Mitchell’s appearance, and also shot 75. Hagen’s round was considered the course record because Duncan hadn’t putted out on every hole.

A dozen years before Mitchell came to Des Moines, he was hired by Samuel Ryder to be his personal golf instructor. Ryder, a seed merchant and workaholic, was advised by his doctor to take up the game after he had fallen ill. With Mitchell offering a helping hand, Ryder became obsessed with the game and soon had a single-digit handicap.

According to “Draw in the Dunes,” Neil Sabebiel’s book on the 1969 Ryder Cup, Ryder had witnessed a friendly match between teams of American and British stars in 1926. The Americans, including Hagen and Tommy Armour, were there to play in the Open championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

The British team, which included Duncan and Mitchell, easily won that 1926 match. Ryder wondered why a competition like this could not take place in the future. Over tea, Ryder, Duncan, Mitchell, Hagen and others put together a plan to make it happen.

They decided to call it the Ryder Cup since Samuel Ryder donated the money to pay for the trophy.On top of the gold chalice is a likeness of Mitchell, Ryder’s way of saying thanks for his personal instruction.

“Putting me on top of the cup is more distinction than I could ever earn,” Mitchell said.

The inaugural Ryder Cup was contested on June 3-4, 1927, at Worchester Country Club in Worchester, Mass.

Both Mitchell and Duncan played on three Ryder Cup teams. Duncan was a player-captain in 1929, when his team won.

Many years later, Johnson played the Wakonda Club many times as a member of Drake’s golf team. And now he’d like to bring that Ryder Cup trophy, Mitchell’s likeness included, back with him to the United States.

‘Up and Down’ the Iowa Golf Scene – Hard work pays off

Barb Thomas Whitehead (left) poses with daughters Emma, Sarah and husband Trent at their Phoenix home.

From Sibley to the LPGA Tour – Barb Thomas Whitehead Fulfills Her Dream

Growing up on one of Iowa’s venerable 9-hole golf courses, Barb Thomas Whitehead dreamed of one day playing the LPGA Tour. Years later, the Sibley native proved that thanks to hard work, determination, a great short game, faith and natural ability, the dreams of a small-town Iowa girl can come true.

Barb’s prodigious short game was honed as a youngster at the Sibley Golf Course.

Now 62 years of age, Whitehead recently reflected on a golf career that included distinguished achievement at the prep, collegiate and professional levels during an interview with Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene.

“We lived two blocks away from the Sibley Golf Course,” Whitehead recalled about her early days of golf, when her parents introduced her to the game at age eight. “I’d strap clubs on my shoulder, ride my bike to the club and play until noon. In those days, the course had a rule that youngsters were required to play with an adult after 12 o’clock. I’d work on chipping and putting until an adult would show up for me to join up with.”

The Sibley course featured three par 3’s, two par 5’s, one sand trap and no driving range. An open field adjacent to the course served as the driving range where Whitehead would sharpen her ball striking skills while shagging her own practice balls.

“I played other sports, including the old six-on-six basketball format for Iowa girls, but golf was my true love,” said Whitehead. “I’d play from sunup to sundown. And after watching and being inspired by the Colgate-Dinah Shore tournament in junior high, I set my sights to play the LPGA Tour.”

Big dreams for a youngster coming from a small town and from a state that is not well known for producing touring professionals. Only a handful of native Iowans have competed on the LPGA Tour. They include Judy Kimball Simon of Sioux City, who captured three tournament victories highlighted by the 1962 LPGA Championship; Beth Bader, a Davenport native who played to the tour for ten years and amassed over a million dollars in winnings; and Waterloo’s Andy Cohn, who played the tour in the early to mid-1960’s before becoming a teaching professional. In addition, Dot Germain, who moved from Atlantic to Owensboro, KY at the age of 14, played the tour for 15 years.

Fast forward to the fall of 1983, following standout prep and collegiate careers, Whitehead’s dream of playing on the LPGA Tour suddenly came down to the final hole in the qualifying school at Sweetwater Country Club in Sugarland, TX, then home of the LPGA prior to its move to Daytona Beach. Once safely inside the cut line in the middle of her final round, the high stakes pressure mounted down the stretch.

The University of Tulsa captured the 1982 NCAA Championship, led by Barb Thomas Whitehead’s third place finish in the medalist standings.

“I started making bogies, and then a double bogey and all of a sudden the wheels are off,” recalled Whitehead. “I got to the last hole knowing I needed to make something happen. Go figure, I holed a bunker shot for a closing birdie, and qualified for the Tour on the number. Not bad for a kid who grew up on a course with one sand trap.”

Whitehead’s dramatic entry on the LPGA Tour was a springboard for an 18-year career that was highlighting with her victory at the 1995 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open. That year, she also recorded her top finish in a major, a tie for sixth at the LPGA Championship and finished 31st on the money list. In 1996, Whitehead lost in a playoff at the State Farm Rail Classic and recorded six other top 10 finishes for her best-ever 24th ranking on the money list.

She noted the many contrasts in life on the Tour decades ago compared to today.

“The girls are playing for so much more money now, so much more exposure and pressure,” Whitehead said. “With progress comes a few negatives. It likely takes $100,000 in expenses to break even, and most players now come to the tour with ‘teams’ behind them, such as trainers, psychologists, and managers. I started my LPGA career with about $15,000 in local sponsorships.”

What a time to be alive Whitehead recalled.

“We had a special brand of camaraderie back then resembled a traveling band of gypsies” she said. “In many events, we stayed in private housing or doubled up with other players in hotels to save on expenses. During rain delays, we would gather together in the clubhouse for hours. On off days we would go to the movies or play tennis together. We played in many cities with the population ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 where we were the biggest ticket in town. There were great crowds and signs all over welcoming the LPGA and its players.”

Barb is all smiles as she hoists the trophy for capturing the 1996 Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open.

Whitehead knew there was something special in the making during her formative years when her game advanced quickly and she started to shoot par in her early teens on the Sibley course. She went on to capture the 1978 and 1979 Iowa Girls Junior and Iowa High School Girls High School golf championships and qualified for the 1979 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Luverne, MN, native Jerilyn Britz. She added the Iowa Women’s Amateur titles in 1979, 1981 and 1982. Despite a notable prep career, Whitehead flew mostly below the collegiate recruiting radar with just a handful of offers. She joined the Iowa State University Women’s Golf Team, coached by Hawarden native Joan Gearhart, and made an instant impact.

“I had a great experience at Iowa State,” said Whitehead, who was named All-American in 1980. “My decision to leave was based on wanting to give myself the best opportunity to play professionally and work on my game year-round.”

Enter The University of Tulsa, a perennial power in AIAW and NCAA women’s golf circles. She joined legendary coach Dale McNamara’s squad, a team populated with many future LPGA players. The Golden Hurricane captured the 1982 NCAA championship with Thomas finishing third in the medalist standings, as well as the AIAW title. Her teammates were the likes of future LPGA professionals Kathy Baker, Dee Dee Lasker, LuLong Hartley and Jody Rosenthal.

“Our team was so deep that we had to requalify for the next tournament if you finished outside of the top three and all five of our squad members played the tour,” she said.

While in college, Whitehead’s life would also take a dramatic turn spiritually. It was teammate Baker, who would later go on to capture the 1985 U.S. Women’s Open, who helped open a door that would change Whitehead’s life.

“Kathy came back from a Bible study and posed a question to me that I’d never heard before,” she said. “She asked if I died today, where would I spend eternity. I became a follower of Christ, and it changed the trajectory of my life.”

Her personal faith became the guidepost for many life choices, including service to others. For many years, Whitehead spearheaded pro-amateur fundraising golf events for two special charities, the Osceola Regional Health Center in Sibley (where her father was a physician) and Camp Foster at Lake Okoboji, an organization close to her heart. About a dozen LPGA professionals would join her for those events which raised tens of thousands of dollars.

Today, Whitehead resides in Phoenix, AZ area with her husband Trent and daughters Sarah and Emma. She credits the Iowa Women’s Golf Association for providing opportunities to play tournament golf and spark her competitive spirit.

She also offers younger players the following advice.

“Work hard on your short game, especially shots around the green to save strokes – a missed putt counts the same as a three-hundred-yard drive. Enjoy and respect the game and have fun.”

“Up and Down” the Iowa Golf Scene

A regular feature column written by IGA Foundation board member Mark Gambaiana, Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene is designed to take the reader beyond the headlines and scoreboards to share stories of those who help make Iowa golf so rich and rewarding. Profiles will spotlight those who advance the game through volunteerism, service, extraordinary achievement, competition, human interest and the many other dimensions of golf in Iowa.

Click the links below to read previous Up and Down features
– IGA Rules Official Sean Flanders
– R&A, USGA Champion Gene Elliott
– Nervig Reflects on Decades of Service to The Iowa Masters
– Arseneault Finds Fulfillment in Life’s Next Chapter After Competitive Golf
– Ivan Miller remembers the days of the Minnows
– Kinney adjusts to life on tour
– Standard Golf’s roots run deep
– Pettersen sets sights high
– McCoy, Norton Put Iowa Stamp on Florida Senior Golf
Moreland Reflects on his Extraordinary Club Pro, Playing Career

McCoy ready to lead U.S. Team at 49th Walker Cup

(Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

This year’s Walker Cup will be a centennial celebration at St. Andrews. One hundred years ago, the second edition of the biennial competition between the United States and a team from Great Britain and Ireland was contested over the Old Course. And the two events a century apart nearly had a former Iowa Amateur champion involved.

Mike McCoy of Des Moines, who played on the 2015 Walker Cup team and is the 2023 captain, won the Iowa Amateur six times.

After being an alternate in 1922, Rudy Knepper of Sioux City was named to the 1923 Walker Cup team on Feb. 15, 2023. According to a story in the Des Moines Register the following day, “Rudy has petitioned the board of directors of Princeton University, where he is a student, for a leave of absence which it is believed will be granted.”

But Knepper, who won the Iowa Amateur for a third straight year in 1922 and also won the Trans-Mississippi championship that summer, was denied that waiver by Princeton and had to withdraw from the competition. The same thing happened to Bobby Jones, whose waiver request was turned down by Georgia Tech.

McCoy is the second Iowan to represent his country in the competition as a player and captain. Dr. Edgar Updegraff of Boone played on Walker Cup teams in 1963, 1965 and 1969. He served as captain in 1975.

Clark Burroughs, who attended high school in Waterloo, played on the 1985 Walker Cup team.

The Walker Cup of one of the four elite team events in golf. The others are the Ryder Cup, the Curtis Cup and the Solheim Cup.

Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids will become the first Iowan to captain a Ryder Cup team when the United States squares off against Europe in Rome Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Johnson is also the only Iowan to represent his country as a player in the Ryder Cup, making the team in 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

The Curtis Cup, like the Walker Cup, brings together the nation’s elite amateur players. Lucile Robinson Mann of Des Moines played on the 1934 team. Ann Casey Johnstone of Mason City was selected three times, in 1958, 1960 and 1962. Phyllis Otto Germain of Atlantic was named to the team in 1946. But that competition was not held because of World War II.

No Iowan has ever played in the Solheim Cup, but the state does have a connection to the event. The 2017 Solheim Cup was played at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club.

Click here for more on The Walker Cup

McCoy, Johnson humbled to represent United States in upcoming competitions

Mike McCoy (left) and Zach Johnson

Mike McCoy was 10 years old when he got his first job, as a caddy at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines. Zach Johnson was 13 when he got his start in the bag room at the Cedar Rapids Country Club.

Both have gone on to achieve great things in the game of golf. Johnson is the best professional this state has ever produced. McCoy is the most accomplished amateur golfer in Iowa history.

And now they’ll carry the flag for their home state at golf’s summit this fall. Johnson will captain the United States Ryder Cup team against Europe Sept. 29-Oct. 1 at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome, Italy. McCoy will captain the United States against a team from Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup at the Old Course at St. Andrews Sept. 2-3.

“It’s crazy, if you really get down to it,” said Johnson, a two-time major champion, five-time Ryder Cup player and 12-time winner on the PGA Tour. “Twenty years ago, what’s the likelihood of this happening? Now given what Mike’s done, and how relevant he still is in the amateur game and how respected he is, there’s no surprise there. And on my side, when your peers say you’re supposed to do it, you do it. But from a 30,000-foot view it looks ridiculous.”

McCoy calls it a remarkable story.

“To have two guys that started from pretty humble backgrounds ending up captaining the two most important competitions of the year, it’s pretty amazing,” McCoy said. “I think Zach feels the way I do, that it’s really the greatest honor, bestowed on you by your peers and the governing bodies in the game, to select us to lead our country’s efforts. It’s just a huge honor.”

McCoy, 60, joins Boone native Ed Updegraff as the only Iowans to play in and captain a Walker Cup team. McCoy played in the 2015 Walker Cup, just one highlight in a distinguished career. He’s won 35 Iowa Golf Association-sponsored tournaments, including six Iowa Amateurs. He’s been the state’s Amateur of the Year 11 times and the Senior Amateur of the Year three times.

His success beyond Iowa includes the 2013 USGA Mid-Amateur, which earned him a spot in the 2014 Masters. He won the Senior British Amateur in 2022 and has twice been low amateur at the U.S. Senior Open.
Johnson, 47, is the only Iowa native to play in a Ryder Cup (2006, 2010, 2012, 2014, 2016). He said his depth of experience in that pressure cooker will make him a better captain.

“Every experience in that arena is going to be beneficial,” said Johnson, who also served as a vice captain three times.

Even though the U.S. got thumped in 2006 at the K Club in Ireland, the rookie experience was pivotal in Johnson’s career. Especially the first match.

Zach and Chad Campbell were 2 down to Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley in their foursomes match heading to the par-5 16th hole. Campbell’s drive left Johnson 260 yards to a green that required a carry over water and was just 12 yards wide in the front.

As Johnson pondered the shot, captain Tom Lehman approached and said, “You’ve got the shot. Hit it.”
He laced a 3-wood to 20 feet, and it resulted in a birdie to cut the deficit in half.

“It was nerve wracking,” Johnson says now. “You want the ball. You want the last shot. But it was very difficult. If you’re playing conservative golf, it’s not one you do.”

Johnson made a 14-foot for birdie putt on the 17th hole that extended the match, then made a 4-footer for birdie on the last hole to win the hole and earn a halve.

“He played like a champion,” Lehman said.

Photo courtesy of The R&A / Getty Images

Lehman predicted that Johnson’s success in the clutch would pay dividends in major championships down the road. Zach won the Masters the following spring, added the Open Championship in 2015 (pictured right) and has nine Top 10 finishes in majors overall including a tie for third in the 2010 PGA and a tie for eighth in the 2016 U.S. Open.

“I’ve said it to the young guys who have made these teams, the Presidents Cup included, that when you’re called upon to execute, under these highly-weighted circumstances, and you come through, it’s going to make you a better player,” Johnson said. “I still talk about that shot (on the 16th) as one of the best shots I’ve ever hit in golf.”

His time as a player and vice captain have given Johnson a taste of what he faces when he makes his six at-large picks and then puts together his pairings. He’ll also lean on others for feedback.

“It’s a team when we compete, and a team when we’re trying to make a team,” Johnson said. “There’s volatility this year.”

Picking his team includes the uneasy alliance between the PGA Tour and LIV, as well as a weighted point system in elevated events that can rapidly alter the team standings. The selection process for the 2023 Ryder Cup was already determined when the PGA Tour added elevated events.

“I think it’s my responsibility, at this point, to utilize the template that’s been given to me, one that’s efficient and effective,” Zach said. “I want to win, but I want them in a position so they can be who they are. That’s my role.”

The bottom line is that Johnson will rely on all his experiences, including his marketing degree from Drake University, to guide him in the process.

“When I think about the Ryder Cup I smile, because it’s still the best thing I’ve ever been associated with competitively,” he said. “I flipping love team sports.”

The fact that he’s representing his country is another reason this is a special moment in McCoy’s career.

“I didn’t have a chance to serve in the military,” he said. “But this is a chance to represent my country, on an international stage. I just know, from the opportunity I had when I played (in the Walker Cup), the feeling you get inside when that flag goes up and they play the National Anthem. The lump in the throat you get when you’re wearing the red, white and blue, and your golf bag has USA on it, and you’re proud. But you know it carries a lot of responsibility.”

Mike McCoy during the flag raising ceremony at the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham & St. Annes G.C. in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

Mike does have some experience at St. Andrews. Most recently, he played in the 2018 Senior Open Championship there. He also played in two St. Andrews Links Trophy tournaments over the Old Course, spent last year on site for the Open Championship and has played the course numerous times as a member of the R and A. He’s also picked Johnson’s brain about the course where Zach won the 2015 Open Championship.

“I’ve studied it a lot,” Mike said.

McCoy’s days as the Walker Cup draws near are far from routine. On one recent day, he had to address whether or not his players wanted launch monitors for practice sessions and dealt with a proposal to change the team uniforms for the final day of competition.

“It seems like each day there are more and more things bubbling to the surface that you’ve got to deal with,” McCoy said. “Some of them are important, some of them are not.”

But determining who will make up his 10-man team is consuming most of Captain McCoy’s attention.

“We’re blessed with a lot of great players in America, and it’s a deep bench,” McCoy said. “The most difficult thing is going to have to leave a few of these good players behind. They’re all just outstanding people and they’ve got great support systems. That’s been the most rewarding part of all this.”

As he’s observed possible team members in competition, McCoy has been impressed with their character and deportment across the board.

“When you get them together in a team room the youth comes out,” McCoy said. “But when they put their shoes on and they grab their golf bag, they take on a whole different persona. They’re mature beyond their years once they get to the golf course.”

The level of talent he has to choose from is just as impressive.

“Three or four of these guys are going to be big stars on the tour, there’s just no doubt about it,” McCoy predicted. “The state and quality of amateur golf in America has never been better.”

Getting players who fit together is McCoy’s ultimate challenge.

“Quite frankly that’s what I’m most nervous about, getting it right,” McCoy added. “When I’m out there observing, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. Who are they going to complement? I’m going to have guys that like to play fast, guys that like to play slow, guys that are better drivers than others, guys who are better wedge players. Trying to put those pieces together is probably the biggest part of my job.”

Handling a myriad of personalities will also be important. Some players might want McCoy with them during a match to settle them down. Others might want to be left alone.

“I told all of them that if somebody goes 2 down I’m going to be there, whether they like it or not,” McCoy said. “I’m just trying to get it in their heads that we want to win every point. We’ve got to go out there with that tenacity.

That’s what I’m trying to instill.”

McCoy was on a losing team in 2015, and he doesn’t want a repeat performance as a captain.

“They don’t want that feeling that I had,” he said.

McCoy’s final team picks will be made after the U.S. Amateur concludes August 20 at Cherry Hills Country Club. The champion will earn one of those picks if he hasn’t already been named to the team.

McCoy has proudly carried the name captain since the USGA selected him on March 9, 2022.

“I’m ready to carry that responsibility,” he said.

Brown wins 2023 Waterloo Open in playoff, Meyer snags Amateur Division

The 2023 Waterloo Open was contested over Thursday, July 20 through Sunday, July 23 in Waterloo. The Pro-Am was played July 20 at Irv Warren, the first two rounds of the Professional Division were played over July 21 and July 22 at Gates Park and South Hills, respectively, and final rounds were played on July 23 again at Irv Warren for those who made the cut.

In the Professional Division, which was contested over three rounds, Evan Brown of Chadds Ford, PA won after a two-hole playoff in which he beat Harry Hillier of Overland Park, KS. The two contestants shot (-21) 195. Michael Visacki from Sarasota, FL and Kelly Harper from Greenville, SC tied for third at (-20) 196.

Des Moines’ Trip Kinney led the Iowans in the Professional Division, placing T15 with a (-16) 200.

In the Open Amateur division, which was contested over three rounds, Cedar Falls’ Owen Sawyer claimed a four-stroke victory at (-14) 202. Cedar Falls’ Luke Meyer finished second with (-10) 206. Glenn Walls, from Harrisburg, SD, finished third with (-8) 208.

In the Senior Amateur division, Derek Hileman of Grain Valley, MO, Jeff Wachter of Asbury, and Joe Bates of Albia tied for first at (-1) 143.

In the Super Senior Amateur flight, West Des Moines’ Bob Brooks won handily by 18 strokes over the field, finishing with (-3) 213.

Click here for full results

Imsland, Kerrigan win IGA Women’s Mid-Am Series Event at Carroll CC

From left – Laura Leszczynski, Leighann Larocca, Christi Imsland and Karli Kerrigan.

The second event of the IGA Women’s Mid-Am Series was contested on Saturday, July 22 at Carroll Country Club, Carroll. The shamble tournament, with gross best ball and net four ball prizes, was won by the side of Karli Kerrigan and Christi Imsland. The team fired a gross and net (-8) 63, winning the gross tournament by three strokes and tying for the lead in the net tournament.

The teams of Rose Kubesheski and Michelle Klein and Laura Leszczynski and Leighann Larocca also shared the lead in the net tournament. Kubesheski and Klein placed second in the gross tournament at (-5) 66, winning the tiebreaker over Fiona Watson and Tish Boothe who also carded (-5) 66.

Click here for full results

‘Up and Down’ the Iowa Golf Scene – A Golf Life Well Lived

Bob Moreland poses in his den that features memorabilia of golf achievements and honors that stretches more than five decades.

Moreland Reflects on his Extraordinary Club Pro, Playing Career

Bob Moreland was predestined to become a golfer. But the retired, long-time Ottumwa Country Club professional admits fishing was his first love.

Growing up in Peoria, IL., Moreland would much rather hit the fishing hole than the golf course. It wasn’t until the age of 13 that his deep golf roots prevailed, when he replaced casting a reel with rifling a 5-iron.

“I actually didn’t start playing until the seventh grade and then really made up for lost time.  Day after day, Mom would drop me off at the course at 8:00 a.m. and come pick me up an hour after dark,” recalled Moreland, the well-decorated Iowa Section PGA golf professional and Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member, during a recent interview at his home in Ottumwa. “She would give me a dollar for the day for a hot dog and a Coke. We’d play 36 holes and then putt for dimes underneath the streetlight. On a good day, I’d return home with more than a buck.”

Moreland’s golf pedigree is extraordinary. His father, Gus Moreland was a world-class player in the 1930s. Competing as an amateur, Gus Moreland beat the likes of Ben Hogan in the Southwestern Amateur, Byron Nelson in the Glen Garden Invitational, Johnny Goodman in the Houston Invitational, Lawson Little in the Trans-Mississippi, and Francis Ouimet in an early round of the British Amateur. He played in the inaugural Masters Tournament in 1934 and was a two-time selection for The Walker Cup, where he never lost a match in singles or doubles competition.

“Dad and Ben Hogan were friends and competitors, he’s mentioned in the book Hogan, written by Curt Sampson,” said Moreland. I remember going to Shady Oaks Country Club in Dallas to watch Hogan hit 120-yard wedge shots on the range. He’d take aim at his caddie, who was armed with just a towel, and the caddie only had to move slightly in either direction to shag those balls.”

Gus Moreland eventually turned professional at the age of 53, taking a club job in Pampa, TX, and later in Peoria, IL., where Bob Moreland grew up and would eventually lead Richwoods High School to the Illinois state championship. That performance was a springboard to a successful golf career in its own right. Moreland moved to Texas right after high school in 1962 to seek his golf fortune, going to work at Cedar Crest Golf Course in Dallas, site of Walter Hagen’s fifth and final PGA Championship.

“One day in 1963, the head pro said there’s this Mexican guy who can play a little bit, and you should meet him. He paired us together, and I found out rather quickly how well he could play. That guy was Lee Trevino,” Moreland said.

Moreland received a hand written note of congratulations from golf legend Lee Trevino upon his induction into the Iowa Golf Association Hall of Fame. Moreland met Trevino in Dallas in 1963 and maintains a close friendship to this day.

Moreland and Trevino were frequent golf companions for the next few years until Trevino burst onto the PGA Tour scene in 1967 by finishing fifth in the U.S. Open at Baltusrol. He came back to Cedar Crest and told Moreland, “I can beat these guys.” A year later, Trevino won the first of his six major titles, the 1968 U.S. Open at Oak Hill in Rochester, NY. They remain good friends.

In 1968, Moreland played the PGA Tour. In those days, fewer players had exempt status, resulting in large Monday qualifiers where, in some weeks, 150 players teed it up for 30 openings in the field. “It wasn’t a very glamorous lifestyle for the also-rans,” Moreland remembers. “We traveled by car, stayed in cheap motels, and scraped by.” He stepped away from the tour and held club professional positions in Texas and at Sunset Hills Golf Course in Pekin, IL, until his life changed in 1976.

That’s when the Ottumwa Country Club came calling, and Moreland would spend the next 34 years serving the club with distinction, not only in club operations and starting one of the state’s most successful junior golf programs but also maintaining a high level of playing ability, competing in Iowa PGA Section and national events. For a remarkable 17 times, Moreland was named the Iowa Section PGA Player of the Year in three categories: five in the regular category, ten times as Senior Player of the Year, and twice as Super Senior. He won the 1981 Iowa Open and was a two-time Iowa Section PGA champion.

Byron Nelson also extended his personal congratulations to Moreland on his Iowa Golf Hall of Fame selection.

Strong performances in the annual PGA Club Pro Championship earned Moreland a spot in three PGA Championships: the 1977 event at Pebble Beach, the 1981 tournament at Atlanta Athletic Club, and the 1982 event at Southern Hills. He also qualified for and participated in the US Senior Open and several Senior PGA Championships. His extensive list of other golf achievements included playing several times in the former Quad Cities Open and making the cut in the 1973 Western Open in Chicago. In his prime, Moreland would play 18-20 section events annually. “In those days, club pros would play every Monday from the first of May until the end of September,” he recalled.

His playing accomplishments aside, Moreland is equally proud of the robust junior golf program he and his wife, Lynda, operated each year at Ottumwa Country Club. Between 85 and 120 boys and girls participated in a six-week program annually that featured instruction, rules and etiquette sessions, practice, and culminated with a tournament and awards banquet. Both the Ottumwa boys and girls high school golf teams would later capture multiple state championships populated with players from his program, and several would go on to become club professionals. His advice to young players today – “Get some good instruction, work on your short game, and leave the golf carts in the stall. Walking builds the endurance you need to become a good golfer. I see too many youngsters on carts.”

Among his other awards, Moreland was named the Iowa PGA Section’s Professional of the Year, Junior Golf Leader Award, and Merchandiser of the Year. The job of a club professional is demanding, juggling the daily tee sheet, running tournaments and leagues, conducting lessons, the pro shop, administration, and a multitude of other responsibilities. “I can honestly say that a day didn’t go by when I didn’t look forward to going to work,” Moreland said. “There were many long days during the golf season, which goes with the territory. It’s like joining the Mafia, you know exactly what you are getting into.”

Now 79 years old, Moreland looks back on his golf career with pride. “I’ve been so fortunate to work in a profession where you get to meet so many good people,” he said. “You can’t give up in the game of life or the game of golf. It’s a game you can play until they bury you.”

Bob Moreland’s father, Gus, (back row, center) is pictured with his 1934 Walker Cup teammates, including Lawson Little and Johnny Goodman and captained by Francis Ouimet. Gus Moreland also played in the 1934 Masters.

“Up and Down” the Iowa Golf Scene

A regular feature column written by IGA Foundation board member Mark Gambaiana, Up and Down the Iowa Golf Scene is designed to take the reader beyond the headlines and scoreboards to share stories of those who help make Iowa golf so rich and rewarding. Profiles will spotlight those who advance the game through volunteerism, service, extraordinary achievement, competition, human interest and the many other dimensions of golf in Iowa.

Click the links below to read previous Up and Down features
– IGA Rules Official Sean Flanders
– R&A, USGA Champion Gene Elliott
– Nervig Reflects on Decades of Service to The Iowa Masters
Arseneault Finds Fulfillment in Life’s Next Chapter After Competitive Golf
Ivan Miller remembers the days of the Minnows
Kinney adjusts to life on tour
Standard Golf’s roots run deep
Pettersen sets sights high
McCoy, Norton Put Iowa Stamp on Florida Senior Golf

May wins weather-shortened Fort Dodge Amateur

May, Davis, Brooks crowned in Sunday-only format after rain washes out opening round

Zach May (right) made the choice to stay in Iowa this summer instead of returning to his home country of New Zealand.For the soon-to-be Iowa State University sophomore golfer, that decision paid off in a big way here Sunday, as May was crowned the open division winner of the 75th annual Fort Dodge Amateur.

Thanks to a 33 on the front-nine at the Fort Dodge Country Club, May finished at 2-under to hold off a handful of the top amateurs in the state — including Zac Jenkins and Nate Juffer, who tied for second at even par.

Sean Davis repeated as the Senior Division winner with a 1-over 72, while Bob Brooks was crowned the Super Senior winner with a 1-under 70 round.

Click here to read more from coverage by the Fort Dodge Messenger

Golf House Iowa receives $250,000 donation from Iowa PGA Section

When the Iowa PGA Section started discussions on a new three-, five- and 10-year strategic plan for the organization last December, Golf House Iowa came up.

“It became apparent that we needed to do something,” Executive Director Greg Mason said.

Those discussions included the Iowa PGA Section’s Board of Directors, the Iowa PGA Foundation’s Board of Directors and the organization’s past presidents.

Mason figured a $50,000 donation might be in the works, and maybe $100,000.

“But during those talks, a quarter of a million dollars came up,” said Mason, who has been the head of the state’s professional golfing body since 2017.

On Monday, Mason informed his members that the Iowa PGA Section would be donating $250,000 to Golf House Iowa. The donation includes naming rights to the building’s Hall of Fame meeting room.

“This is the right thing to do,” Mason said.

Golf House Iowa, currently under construction overlooking the 9th green of the Echo Valley Country Club’s Creek course in Norwalk, will be the home of the Iowa Golf Association, its programs, a museum and the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame.

“This is recognition, from an organization like the Iowa PGA Section, of what Golf House is intending to do,” said Chad Pitts, CEO and Executive Director of the Iowa Golf Association. “They understand it in a way that they made a very significant donation. The size of their donation gave us a big jump in reaching our goals.”

The Iowa Golf Association Foundation is in the home stretch of a fundraising campaign for the new facility, scheduled to open next spring. Nearly 90 percent of the $5 million goal has been raised.

“The Iowa PGA Section and the Iowa Golf Association have some unified goals, and one of them is to make golf a better game,” Pitts said. “Better for our players, the PGA pros, golf course superintendents, everyone who works with the game. Together, it makes golf’s whole ecosystem better.”

Erin Strieck, president of the Iowa PGA Section and the Iowa PGA Foundation, said her organization is proud to be a part of the rich history of Iowa golf.

“This gift is a gesture of thanks to all who have come before us and those who will follow,” said Strieck, the head golf professional at the Pinnacle Country Club in Milan, Ill. “Golf House Iowa will highlight that history through the museum, the Golf Hall of Fame and all the programs that will help enrich the game over time. We are proud to be giving this gift on behalf of our Iowa PGA members and associates and those who serve this game in partnership with the Iowa Golf Association.”

Steve Jermier, president of the Iowa Golf Association and the Iowa Golf Association Foundation, said the Iowa PGA Section’s donation came at a perfect time from a fundraising standpoint.

“For the Iowa PGA to make a contribution of this size and magnitude at this point in the campaign is just huge,” Jermier said.

He added that while the game is bigger than any one organization, the Iowa PGA Section’s donation shows that all forces are unified in one common goal.

“I’ve talked to multiple club pros from across the state who are very excited about this project, and they recognize what it’s going to do for the game, how it’s going to help grow the game and preserve the game in our state,” Jermier said. “It’s testimony to how these organizations work together. And that’s a big deal. This vote of confidence from the section just means the world to us.”

The Iowa PGA Section has been part of the PGA of America since it was founded in 1916. In the original charter, Iowa joined other Midwestern states in the Plains Section. Iowa broke off into the Nebraska Section in 1925 and became the Iowa PGA Section in 1936. The Iowa PGA Section includes part of Western Illinois.

“Both organizations (Iowa PGA Section and Iowa Golf Association) want to grow the game in Iowa and Western Illinois,” Mason said. “We just feel when we’re together, it’s going to go better.”

Mason said the Iowa PGA Section’s gift to Golf House Iowa will come from investment accounts, and member dues will not increase. The gift will be paid in annual installments through 2026.

The Iowa PGA Section operates with a three-pronged mission statement – Mission, Vision and Values. Mission represents promoting and growing the game of golf. Vision is aimed at inspiring leadership, collaboration and innovation. Values covers philanthropic endeavors to give back to the community through the game of golf.

Mason remembers one strategic meeting when those values were being discussed. He said that Ken Schall, a four-time Iowa PGA Section champion and past president (2005-07), spoke up and linked those philanthropic efforts to discussions about donating to the Golf House Iowa project.

“He said, “What can be more philanthropic than this?’ ” Mason recalled.

Mason said the donation to Golf House Iowa is part of the organization’s big-picture scorecard.

“We have bigger plans,” Mason said. “We want to increase scholarships, things like that. But this is definitely a way to lay the groundwork.”

The donation will also help honor many great professionals, past and present. This October, the four-member Iowa Golf Hall of Fame induction class will include Kevin Beard, the head professional at Otter Creek in Ankeny from 1990-2017. Beard will become the 34th current or former Iowa PGA Section member to be inducted. Beard and this year’s other three inductees – Joe Palmer, Jim Curell and Doug Dunakey – will increase the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame to 96 members.

“We’re looking to the future but we’re also honoring our past,” Mason said.

2023 Ann Griffel Scholars announced

The Iowa Golf Association (IGA) congratulates the 2023 recipients of the Ann Griffel (above right) Scholarship Award: Alexa Poppen, Emma Stock, Laura Klaessy, Maura Peters and Addison Berg. Each recipient will be awarded a one-year scholarship of $2,000. Since 1963, the Ann Griffel Scholarship Award has been helping students further their education. A total of 258 students have earned the honor of receiving this prestigious scholarship.

Alexa Poppen, of West Branch, is the daughter of Kami and Dave Poppen and plans to attend the University of Iowa to major in Management and Finance.

“I am grateful to have received this scholarship. I believe golf is a great way to connect with others and I look forward to playing the game for many years,” she said.


Emma Smock, of Oelwein, is the daughter of Todd and Deena Smock and will attend Wartburg College on the Pre-Physical Therapy track.

“I am very thankful and honored to receive this scholarship. The game of golf has taught me to be patient and relax in more than just golf but my everyday life in general. Having a few setbacks but finishing strong is another thing that golf has brought me. I have gained much knowledge and mental toughness for anything brought my way,” she said.


Laura Klaessy, of Grimes, is the daughter of John and Sara Klaessy and will study Elementary Education at Simpson College.

“Ann Griffel was an inspiration to many young women golfers, and it is a great honor for me to be a recipient of the Ann Griffel Scholarship. Golf has taught me to become mentally tough and become a student of the game and was an important part of my high school career. I look forward to continuing to play the game at Simpson College next fall,” she said.


Maura Peters, of Bettendorf, is the daughter of Benjamin and Jennifer Peters. She will be attending the University of Iowa to play on the women’s golf team and study biomedical engineering.

“I am so grateful to have been chosen as one of the 2023 Ann Griffel Scholarship recipients. The game of golf has helped mold me into the person I am today, teaching me all sorts of valuable lessons. I learned to problem solve, manage my emotions, be patient and most importantly, positive. I am so happy to have chosen a sport and hobby that has allowed me to form so many new relationships and friendships, and I cannot wait to immerse myself in this incredible game for the rest of my life,” she said.


Addison Berg, of Swisher, is the daughter of Aaron and Deana Berg. She will be attending the University of Northern Iowa with an undecided major at this time. She will also be a member of the golf team.

“Golf has been important to me from an early age. It has taught me so many important lessons such a as mental toughness. Golf is so unique because your always competing with yourself. You have to be able to put bad shots behind you, and you can’t play defense. You just have to go out and play the best you can every time,” she said.

The Ann Griffel Scholarship Award was established in 1963 as just one $350 scholarship awarded by the Iowa Women’s Golf Association (IWGA). The award has evolved into a $2,000 scholarship awarded to multiple high school senior girls who intend to further their education at an Iowa institution of higher learning, whether it be a college, university or trade school.

The Iowa Golf Association Foundation (IGAF) was established to preserve the game and develop more programs to promote the future of golf in Iowa. The IGAF awards the Ann Griffel Scholarship Award annually. This scholarship was named after the long-time IWGA President, Ann Griffel, who started the Girls’ State Junior, Forever 39 Match Play, State Wife-Husband and the Senior Women’s Championships in her 23-year term.

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