Maybe you’ve seen some young – and very good – golfers on the Savannah Lakes Village courses this week. They are collegiate players from Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and they are here to enjoy the sunshine and play as much golf as possible before their season gets into full swing.
So, you might be wondering why Wayne State players would come all the way to South Carolina for golf. It’s simple: word-of-mouth networking.
The team started coming to Hickory Knob State Resort Park to play about eight years ago. SLV residents Lowell and Pat Martin, who lived near Wayne State when they lived in Michigan, took a special interest in having the players experience playing the lake courses at Savannah Lakes Village.
Lowell said it all started with some NGA Tour (now SwingThought.com Tour) players who were from Wayne State who came here to play in the annual Savannah Lakes Village Classic. Through those players, Lowell and Pat met Wayne State coach Michael Horn.
“This is their warmup for their golf season,” Pat said. “It’s just a fun competition now that we have some of the members participating with them. The members get to know some younger people and get to play a little tougher crowd. It’s good competition for both sides.”
The Wayne State team has been here since Saturday, March 14. They have played eight rounds of golf between the SLV courses of Monticello and Tara, and the Hickory Knob course. They’ve experienced good weather. On Wednesday, it was 66 here. By contrast, it was 47 in Detroit.
The coach said the Martins and others have been especially hospitable in welcoming the team to SLV for the past few years. On Wednesday, foursomes in the best ball match included two local residents and two Wayne State players.
“First of all, getting out of the snow is a big part of it,” Horn said about coming here. “But everyone is so gracious and welcoming in having us down here; and the kids don’t quite know how well they have it. But I think they grow to (appreciate it) over the course of their three or four years as they come down here.
“Everybody is so thrilled to have us down here, and it’s so nice to deal with courses and communities like that – where sometimes during the course of our year, where we play tournaments, the golf courses don’t really want us there, for whatever reason.”
Wayne State headed up to Spartanburg on Tuesday to play Spartanburg Methodist College. The team has to play a college team while here because of NCAA regulations. They aren’t allowed to travel more than 100 miles away from campus without playing another college team.
The team’s Wednesday best ball match was at Monticello.
“It’s in great shape,” the coach said of the course. “The greens are fun to play … great layout. Just the competition and camaraderie with the members here is great. The life experiences they share with my younger guys … They get a big kick out of it.”
Director of Golf Operations for SLV, Bob McIntosh, said, “We anticipate their arrival every year. It’s great to see all the young talent.”
Senior Wayne State golfers Robert Favaro and Reid Dean are here on their fourth trip.
“It’s always cold in Michigan where we live,” Robert said. “The people (here) are always nice and courteous to us, and the golf courses are awesome. You get to play with people who live here and hear their background and backstory and why they’re here. It’s a nice break from the rest of the rounds of golf.”
Reid concurred. “It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a lot nicer than Detroit. The courses here are beautiful, and the people treat us great. They host a dinner for us every year. It’s enjoyable. Unfortunately, sometimes they get the better of us. The first year we came down, they (SLV members) gave us a pretty good whooping.”
Resident Paul Dehlinger played to “support the university, support the kids and have fun. I want to keep up with them,” he said.
Resident Ed Weaver has joined the Martins and Jim Staggs in helping host the team and organize play. Ed said the Wayne State golfers enjoy a relaxed place to play. “This seems to be a place that fits their bill,” he said. “They seem to be very happy here. They’ve had nothing but good comments about Savannah Lakes since they’ve been here.
“I think they are not only an asset for us, marketing-wise, but I think it really contributes to their golf program. I just love to see these young men enjoy their activity out here,” Ed continued. “They are so well-disciplined. They don’t ask for anything more than what we get here. I think it’s an overall asset to us.”
Jim was having the players over to his home after the round for a potluck dinner. He said his experience with the team has been very positive.
“I noticed them several years ago when people weren’t paying much attention to them,” he said. “I got to know them. What really impressed me was how polite they are.
“On the golf course, every one of them fixes every divot on the greens … all the ball marks. They are just polite and fun to have around.”
The players haven’t had much of a chance to do anything outside of playing golf since they’ve been here but, on Wednesday night, Jim planned for them to enjoy a good time away from the course.
“Then we go downstairs and play some pool and see who can beat the coach,” he said. “Trust me. I don’t want to play him, and it’s my pool table. He’s that good.”