TIM PEELER: Golf Course Gets Benefactor, Nears Start
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. - Lonnie Poole's first stab at building a golf course came in 1959, just after he graduated from NC State with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.
He was looking for a job, and his girlfriend at the time was from the small eastern North Carolina town of Ayden. Her father had just been elected chairman of a committee that was looking into building a small nine-hole golf course for some of the Dupont engineers and farmers who lived in the community.
So he asked Poole to come up with some plans for the golf course.
Poole, all of 22 years old, did the same thing Donald Ross used to do in his later years: He cut out some holes from other golf course plans, configured them on the topography maps to route the golf course, put in the bridges and the drainage ditches and gave the plans to his soon-to-be father-in-law. The course opened in September, 1959, and was later expanded to a full 18 holes.
"I did one and retired," Poole said of his foray into golf course design.
Poole, the founder and chairman of the board of Raleigh-based Waste Industries USA, won't have a hand in the course's design. That's already been taken care of by golf legend Arnold Palmer's Palmer Course Design Company, with NC State graduate Erik Larsen serving as the chief designer.
But it will be known as the Lonnie Poole Golf Course, in honor of the Poole family's naming rights contribution to the $11.6 million course construction budget. Poole, who has been active in raising funds for and serving his alma mater through several boards and foundations on campus, became interested in giving money to the golf course project because it will serve so many different facets of the university: the men's and women's varsity golf teams, the PGA-sanctioned Professional Golf Management program and the university's nationally recognized turfgrass program.
"NC State has many, many foundations, and a lot of them have a very narrow purpose," Poole said. "I think the golf course happens to be a campus-wide type of thing, and that makes this kind of a unique gift that benefits that benefits both the College of Natural Resources and the College of Agricultural Life Sciences and the athletics department. It all rolls into one gift that benefits a fairly wide range of constituent groups at NC State."
Pending final approval from the state, the official ground-breaking for the golf course is scheduled for June. Construction should be complete by the spring of 2009.
Both Richard Sykes and Page Marsh, the men's and women's golf coaches at NC State, are eager to see the course completed. NC State is the only school in the Atlantic Coast Conference without a home facility for its golf programs.
The teams have practiced for decades at more than a dozen local golf courses, but have never had a permanent home.
"I think having a golf course will give us a chance to do some recruiting on a somewhat equal footing," Sykes said. "We have some great places to play golf around here and some people have been very nice to us. But it would be nice to have one to call your own, where you have a nice locker room and a team room, which are things we have to compete against all the time."
Marsh believes that the course also has the perfect setting to represent NC State's heritage and its future.
"I have walked the routing with the architect, through the kudzu and over hill and dale," she said. "It looks like it is going to be a fantastic design with the topography. There is one area of the golf course where you can turn one way and see downtown Raleigh and then turn the other way and see vistas of the NC State teaching farms (on Lake Wheeler Road).
"I think it really captures NC State."
NC State senior associate athletics director Nora Lynn Finch, who is the co-chairman of the golf course fund-raising committee, said that the school is still raising funds for the course construction, even though naming rights have been secured for 14 of the 18 holes and most of the 250 charter memberships have been sold.
“People in our community thought we were buried deep in a bunker and not making serious progress toward raising the funds needed to build our golf course, but here we are,” Finch said. “We have blasted out of the sand and are putting for eagle.”For Poole, having his name on the course brings his golf career full
circle: he learned to the play the game as a student at NC State, primarily on the courses at Cheviot Hills and the Raleigh Golf Association. He bought his first skeleton set of clubs for $1 each from when the athletics department was selling off used equipment.
He continued to play while in the military, and has been active in charity golf tournaments for years. He has won pro-am events at tournaments in all levels of professional golf: the PGA, the LPGA, the Senior Tour and the Nike Tour.
Now, he's eager to see the course that bears his name host similar charity events and fundraisers, as well as serve the needs of the multiple university constituencies and golfers throughout the Triangle.
"I am looking forward to getting it built," Poole said. "I hope we are going to end up with a first-class product."
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.