Golfing in Pennsylvania
It’s Christmas Eve in State College, Pennsylvania. It’s snowing lightly, and the university is in recess. State College is a charming town with pleasing architecture and picturesque surroundings, and it’s no wonder that the area is called “Happy Valley.”
Pennsylvania and golf are pretty much inseparable. If you tried to hide from the game, there’s not a spot in the state where you could succeed. They’re not just hacking fairways out of the woods, either. The standards are high, and golf balls are almost legal currency. I have a family member whose spare time is devoted to the recovery of lost balls here. His basement is full of them, and he’s been chased, shot at and pursued by hounds, yet he persists, and no one bats an eye.
In early January, the quiet of State College will be shattered as the student body returns. The university is massive in the architectural, social and decibel sense, and next week, the town will more than double in size. That student body will return successful men’s and women’s golf teams as well, and there are some nationally prestigious facilities waiting for them.
The two eighteen-hole courses on campus are designated by the school colors – the Blue Course and the White Course, and despite the wintery location, they are open, except between December 23 and January 3. If the fairways are clear of snow, family rates apply at $20 per 18, $15 per 9 and in some cases, $1 per hole, per person.
Penn State Golf is not a recent phenomenon, existing here well before the turn of the 20th century. Two professors mapped out the first nine to appear on the rolling countryside. That got things started, but the second nine was completed by famous architect Willie Parker Jr. In addition to the two full courses, a 6 hole practice course, the “Nittany” course, existed until a recent burst of campus expansion. Following many changes, one which eliminated the first hole as a par 3, the new “Lion” tees have created a course length of 7, 228. In ’08, a short-game practice facility was created for the two collegiate teams exclusively.
Now, as to this “Nittany” thing, which is as elusive as the “Hoosier” and “Sooner” things. Apparently, Mount Nittany is pronounced NITT-a-nee (not nearly as cool as Ni-TAW-ney, but oh well), and means “a single mountain.” The golfers seem to understand, though, and the women have been making some noise on the national scene. In October, Golfweek named them Team of the Week, after they won their own regional tournament, and went on to win the Mercedes Benz Intercollegiate in Knoxville. One player in particular, junior Ellen Ceresko of Jefferson Township seems to be leading the charge, winning the individual at eight under. This has led to the team being ranked #1 by Golfstat, with a 73.75 average round for the season, 145 birdies and 3 eagles.
For tonight, though, the basement remains filled with rescued golf balls sorted into every conceivable variety and condition, Silent Night wafts through the air from down the street, and the Blue and White Courses are dusted with snow, with more expected tomorrow. There’s a tournament in Las Vegas coming, though, and the serenity will be brief here in the Alleghenies. The state university of Arnie’s regional home means business.