2004 • VOLUME 9, NUMBER 1
Women Golfers to Compete
at Mount Holyoke
When Laurie Priest, Mount
Holyoke's director of athletics, announced to the College community
that the United States Golf Association wanted to hold the 2004
U.S. Women's Open at Mount Holyoke's golf course, The Orchards,
people were stunned and delighted. The Open is the world's most
prestigious women's championship, drawing players such as Annika
Sorenstam and Karrie Webb and prime-time television coverage across
the globe. How could The Orchards attract such a huge sports event?
Simple: It's one of the best golf courses in the country.
the 1930s, MHC was the only college in New England that had
golf in its curriculum.
In 1922, Holyoke
industrialist Joseph A. Skinner, who served as president of the
Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees from 1912 to 1931, decided
that his daughter Elisabeth, an avid and talented golfer, should
have her own course. Wanting the very best, Skinner called upon
Donald J. Ross, the Frank Lloyd Wright of early twentieth-century
golf course architects. He provided Ross with a rolling 200-acre
site across the road from his summer estate, on the north side
of the Mount Holyoke campus. The course became known as The Orchards,
for the rows of apple trees Skinner planted there in the early
The golf course, which
was sold to the College in 1941 for $25,000, was a worthy addition
to Mount Holyoke's ambitious physical education program instituted
by Mary Lyon, who founded the College in 1837. At a time when
women were discouraged from physical activity, Lyon believed that
intellectual and physical education were of equal importance.
Although the College's athletic activities have changed since
Lyon's day, they are still going strong. In September 2000, Sports
Illustrated for Women rated Mount Holyoke the number one women's
college for women athletes.
Over the years, many
MHC golfers have advanced to the Division III Women's National
Championships, including team captain Audry Longo '05 (see sidebar),
who came to Mount Holyoke in large part to participate in the
golf program. "It's a privilege to play here," she said. She is
looking forward to the 2004 U.S. Women's Open. "Everyone on the
team is so proud to be able to show off their facility to the
Big changes came
to The Orchards in 1999 when Mount Holyoke entered into a 25-year
lease of the property with Arnold Palmer Golf Management. The
arrangement has been a tremendous boon for the course and the
College. Palmer has invested $1.5 million in improvements, including
$800,000 to restore the course to Ross's original design. In 2000,
the organization donated $500,000 to establish an endowment fund
in support of the College's golf program, named in honor of Winifred
W. Palmer, late wife of Arnold. "The Palmer people are very supportive
of the College, very professional in their attitude towards the
team," Priest said.
It was Priest who
first drew the USGA's attention to The Orchards. Three years ago,
Joan McAnaney Fay '73 came to play in the College's Friends of
Athletics golf tournament. She mentioned to Priest that her husband,
David Fay, executive director of the USGA, had always loved The
Orchards. Ten days later, Priest received a telephone call from
David Fay, who told her the USGA was interested in holding a championship
there. Priest at first was silent with disbelief. "Yes, Laurie,"
he repeated, "the U.S. Women's Open."
The Orchards has
hosted several significant tournaments, including the 1987 USGA
Girls' Junior Championship, the 1993 National Golf Coaches Association
Division II and III National Championship, and the 2002 NCAA Division
III Women's National Championship. Capturing the U.S. Women's
Open marks it as a truly great course.
The U.S. Women's
Open is a big event for western Massachusetts, which has never
before hosted a major golf championship. The event, which will
be held June 28-July 4, is expected to draw more than 100,000
spectators to South Hadley. It will require 2,300 volunteers and
have more than 15 hours of live television coverage on ESPN and
Priest sums up her
pride and satisfaction in having 156 of the world's best women
golfers compete at Mount Holyoke: "How many courses were designed
for a young female player? And at a time when women had no exposure
to golf and restricted time to play? This is a prestigious women's
college and we're hosting the most prestigious golf event for
women. It's a perfect story." Joseph A. Skinner would certainly
Longo '05 Tees Up
MHC's golf captain, it was the course
--not just the courses--that drew her
Audry Longo '05, who has been playing golf since she was
a young girl, the decision to come to Mount Holyoke was--in
golf parlance--a gimme. "I came to see the campus, and I
fell in love with the school," Longo said. "And then the
golf course was right there. I mean, how perfect is that?
The course was the icing on the cake."
As captain of the College's golf team for the past two years,
Longo loves having a home course as challenging as The Orchards.
"It really helps to be able to practice on a course this
hard," Longo said. "It's one of the hardest courses the
team plays." The course's proximity to the College is another
big plus. "I feel so privileged to have it right here,"
Longo said. "Other teams have to drive 20 minutes or more
to get to their practice course, but I can go out in the
middle of the day and putt for an hour if I want to."
Longo, a history major and economics minor, plans a concentration
in American history. She appreciates being a Division III
athlete: "We are truly student- athletes; we make academics
and sports mesh." She also enjoys the familiarity of a small
liberal arts college. "I love being able to walk down the
hall and have three or four professors recognize me and
know my name--that's something I truly cherish here."
Having the 2004 U.S. Women's Open at The Orchards this summer
is a dream come true for Longo. "To know that the best women
golfers in the world will be playing our team's home course
is amazing," Longo said. Not only will she attend this prestigious
event, she will be finishing a yearlong internship with
the USGA, working on the championship's organization and
publicity. Whether on the course or off, Longo said, "golf
will definitely be part of my professional future."
Longo first swung a golf club with her two older brothers
in her backyard in Middletown, Connecticut. Her father,
also a golfer, soon recognized her passion and skill and
arranged for her to have professional instruction. Longo
recalls being the lone female at junior golf clinics, having
only male teachers, and playing single rounds through men's
foursomes at the Tournament Players Club at River Highlands,
which hosts the Greater Hartford Open. Not until she played
on the golf team at Mercy High School in Middletown, which
she led to second place in the state championships her senior
year, did she finally get to play with other girls. Although
playing in an all-male environment did not dampen her ardor
for the sport, she is pleased that women are more visible
on the golf scene these days. "It's definitely made me more
respectable on the golf course. I'm no longer just 'that
girl who plays golf,'" she said, adding that she won the
women's championship at River Highlands last summer.
Longo's earliest heroes were Freddie Couples and Tiger Woods,
and she has enjoyed adding women to her list of personal
idols. Annika Sorenstam has been a strong role model. "She
has worked out to a new level, building her body with weight
training," Longo said. "She inspired me to work out, and
I have tried to make the team's workout program more serious."
She also admires Suzy Whaley, a professional from Connecticut
who qualified to play at the Greater Hartford Open last
summer. "Women golfers can do anything," Longo said. "We're
here to stay, and we're only going to get better."