It wasn't the first place I played golf, but of my first 25 rounds of golf, probably 20 were played at the University of Utah Golf Course, where I've played a few hundred rounds since.
I didn't take up golf until I was a teenager in the late 1960s. Because my dad worked at the U., he had a free pass and as his son, it cost me a quarter to play. (I still feel guilty about the time I let a friend claim to be my brother so he could pay 25 cents instead of a buck).
My dad and I used to play a lot together, sometimes arising before the sun came up so we could get in a quick round before school. We never wanted to wait, so if someone was teeing off on No. 1, we would often hoof it up to No. 2 to start. Even to this day, if I see someone getting their clubs out of the trunk of their car as I drive up to a golf course, I feel an urgency to beat them to the counter.
When I was 15, before I could drive, I worked for a summer for the legendary pro Vinnie McGuire, picking up balls after his lessons. There wasn't room for a range, so his students hit the balls up the side of the old No. 1 fairway and in the rough to the side. I would take the only golf cart the course had, and drive along with a ball-picker-upper, hoping I didn't get hit by a stray slice off No. 1 as I picked up Vinnie's golf balls with the red V's (or were they U's?) painted on.
I only had to do this three or four times a day, so I spent the rest of my time on the putting green by myself, or playing an occasional round when the course was open. At the end of the day, Vinnie would open up the till and pull out three or four bucks, my pay for the day.
Since I first played at the U., I've seen numerous changes to the course. The only holes that haven't changed in the past 40 years are No. 2, which was No. 4 when I originally played it, and No. 9, the one with the dip in the green, which used to be No. 7. The current No. 1 used to be No. 8 going in the opposite direction.
The current No. 8, which has been chopped to a 164-yard par-3, used to be a terrific 427-yard par-4 that even the good players had a hard time parring. Now the Eccles Broadcast Center sits where much of the hole used to be.
I wish there was a way I could stop the imminent demise of the old U. course.
Several years ago, my old elementary school was torn down. Earlier this year, the church I attended growing up was leveled. Later this year, my old junior high school will face the wrecking ball.Next summer it's the golf course I grew up playing still another piece of my history I'm losing.
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