The UT golf team recently completed their 2006 season with a ninth place finish in the SSC conference, and although their season is over, there are still questions as to how much support the Athletic Department has provided for them.
The golf team plays on one of the worst golf course in the Tampa Bay area, Rogers Park.
It’s no surprise that many of the players are frustrated with this. While the Athletic Department seems to be lending support to some of the major sports such as basketball, baseball and soccer, the golfers feel they are left to fend for themselves.
“We do not have proper support from our athletic department,” Golfer Brian Alberico said. “Our home course is the worst golf course in the area.”
Though the golf team has been around for over fifteen years and has been asking for a nicer golf course for a while, the athletic department claims they have been addressing the matter.
“In years past I have had students talk to me about the course we use,” Athletic Director Larry Marfise said. “I would not say the course is one of the worst in Tampa, but it isn’t as nice as some of the Country Clubs and semi-private courses.”
Marfise and Sports Information Director Tom Kolbe believe that Rogers Park is the most sensible golf course for the team. Their number one concern, they say, is the safety of the players.
Rogers Park is the closest to the University of Tampa and according to Marfise, has the best driving range and practice facility in the city of Tampa. He worries about the golf team having a distant golf course because of the dangers of driving to and from the course in traffic.
Marfise’s main concern is making sure the golfers can get to practice and not miss class, as well as get back to campus in a relatively short period of time so they can attend night classes and eat meals before it’s too late.
He also stresses the fact that they have tried to get the golf team on some of the local country clubs; however, the managers of the courses are unwilling to work with them.
Kolbe also says that Rogers Park is a good place for the team to practice.
“I would also be the first to tell you that Rogers Park is not one of the worst courses in the Tampa Bay area,” Kolbe said. ” I believe that Rogers Park is unfairly labeled by some due to the fact that it is located in a primarily African-American part of Tampa.”
Though Marfise says that he has worked hard to address the golf team’s concerns, he admits the relationship with the team is only “average.”
“The reason our relationship with the golf team is average is because they practice off campus and I only see them at the beginning of the year when we meet as a team and when I attend either a match or a practice,” Marfise said.
Head golf coach Rick Christie is in his fourteenth year as the head coach of the University of Tampa golf team. He has produced four professionals and served as a personal instructor to PGA Player of the Year Wayne Levi. One would assume that such a man would have more power in the athletic department.
Kolbe believes the relationship between the athletic department and golf team, especially Coach Christie, is strong.
“I work very closely with Coach Christie,” Kolbe said. “We also speak 2-3 times per week about the team, which is the same as other teams. I can assure you that Coach Christie and the athletic department has had no problems with the facilities”
If the golf team does have certain issues with the lack of support from the athletic department, Kolbe and Marfise seem unaware of them. Both Marfise and Kolbe made it clear that they have not been contacted this year with any requests or complaints from either Coach Christie or any members of the golf team.
Golfers Brian Alberico and Chad Bouchard both mentioned there have been improvements in the support from last year to this; however, the athletic department does not seem to take their request for a better golf course seriously.
“There have been improvements with regards to the support from the athletic department,” Bouchard said. “Our main concern, which has not been addressed, is the golf course we play at-it does not, in any way, help us prepare for tournament play.”
The golfers frustration with the lack of attention from the athletic department could be the fact that not many people, especially students, know UT has a golf team. The less support a team has, the weaker their voice seems to be with the athletic department.
Perhaps overall support is what the golf team is looking for. A lack of support from the general UT population could be adding to their frustration with the athletic department.
“Golf is a hard sport to market to people in college,” Bouchard said. “It’s not a fan accessible sport because almost all of our tournaments are played away from Tampa. It would be nice to see support though when it comes to the Spartan Invitational in the fall.”