On June 30, the acreage will become open space, to the dismay of a preservation committee, providing a practice area for the golf teams and a home course for cross-country. The Farmville, Va., university will pay The Manor Golf Club $150,000 annually to use its facilities.
Longwood University in Farmville, Va., will close its nine-hole golf course on June 30, the end of the fiscal year, and a small preservation committee is fighting the decision, the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch reported.
Nancy Andrews learned to play golf on the nine-hole course when she was a student there in the late 1950s. Now a retired faculty member, she still plays and is more than a little teed off by the closure, the Times-Dispatch reported.
“It’s just a wonderful community course that has served us so long,” Andrews said.
The 81-year-old course, which is adjacent to the circa-1815 Longwood House about a mile from the center of campus, was built to serve—it was a Works Progress Administration project that created jobs during the Depression, and it gave rise to five national championships for the women’s team when Longwood was a Division II school, the Times-Dispatch reported.
“We’re desperate to keep that course open,” said Lee Bidwell, a Longwood professor of sociology who is on the preservation committee.
But operating a public golf course is not within the university’s mission, said Longwood’s rector, Colleen McCrink Margiloff. “I get it that some people prefer the Longwood course,” Margiloff said, but a new contractual arrangement with The Manor, a private 18-hole course about 4 miles from campus, is “a far better fiscal option for us.”
Margiloff said that since the decision was announced in February, she has heard from only a half-dozen opponents, who made their case to the board of visitors at its March meeting, the Times-Dispatch reported.
“To my knowledge, we haven’t heard from any students or parents that they’ve been upset by this decision,” she said.
The eight-member preservation committee is not giving up. The committee is offering its services to explore options to improve the course’s finances and asking that it be kept open at least one more year, the Times-Dispatch reported.
“We can’t figure out what the hurry is,” said Bidwell, especially since the course will need to be maintained during the next several months as the university prepares for national attention when it hosts the vice presidential debate in October.
But the university is just as resolute that the course will close, given the roughs and hazards confronting public higher education these days, the Times-Dispatch reported.
“And to lawmakers in Washington and Richmond, it doesn’t stand as a mark of distinction—far from it,” Longwood President W. Taylor Reveley IV wrote in an email to a committee member, a retired professor from nearby Hampden-Sydney College. “The simple story is that the crosscurrents for higher education today are extremely difficult, especially for public higher education, and becoming more so. We have a duty to focus on our public purpose.”
The university says the Longwood course is inadequate to meet the needs of a Division I school and has contracted with The Manor Golf Club to expand access. The men’s and women’s teams already were using The Manor for practice at a total annual cost of $60,000, according to Justin Pope, Reveley’s chief of staff.
Longwood now will pay The Manor $150,000 annually. Longwood students and university employees can use the course for the same rates they currently pay at the Longwood course, although they must rent a cart on weekends, the Times-Dispatch reported.
Operating the university course last fiscal year cost about $269,000 and generated about $90,465 in revenue, down from $147,745 in 2007, he said. The university had to make up about $178,475 last year from student fees, the Times-Dispatch reported.
Pope said the golf course will be preserved as open space. While “longer-term plans are developed in the years ahead,” the course will provide practice space for the golf teams and a home course for cross country, and it will be available for use by academic programs such as environmental sciences as a resource for research and instruction, the Times-Dispatch reported.
Those explanations do not satisfy committee members, who question sending student fees to a private enterprise rather than stepping up efforts to make the Longwood course self-sustaining. They say the university has not tried to make the course economically feasible. Annual rates are too low, for one thing, Bidwell said. As Longwood faculty, she pays $300 for a family membership; a comparable community rate is $450, the Times-Dispatch reported.
The committee would like the chance to explore options to expand uses of the course, such as a First Tee program for children or Stand Up and Play for wheelchair users. But Longwood’s rector said the board will not consider an extension, the Times-Dispatch reported.
“Sometimes you have to say final does mean final,” said Margiloff, a 1997 Longwood graduate who did not play golf then. “Honestly, I had no recollection of the course,” she said, but her husband is passionate about the game “so I get it. I appreciate the camaraderie that they feel with each other.”
Besides, she said, the community also has a municipal nine-hole course by the airport, the Times-Dispatch reported.
“Making Farmville a three-course community instead of a two golf-course community isn’t the responsibility of the university,” Margiloff said.
The university’s priority is to keep tuition increases low, she said. “These are tough times in higher ed,” she said. “If some parent came to me and said, ‘Why are you operating a golf course for a handful of people?’ I would have a really hard time looking them in the eye and saying, ‘Give them one more year and let them figure it out.’”
But Barbara Smith, who for nearly three decades was the coach of that winning women’s team and still gives lessons on the course, said the university is making the wrong decision. “I think down the road they will be sorry they let it go,” she said.