Me, My Dad and the University of Montana Golf Course


As I pick the ball from the cup on #18, I am beaming with pride. I have finished at 3 over 75, my best round of golf in about 7 years. The last time I played this well was even par 71 at Wildwood Golf Course in 2004.

It’s July 27th, 2010 and I am at Clairmont Golf Course in Portland, OR. This round was the culmination of a year of working hard on my game, but also of getting physically fit in preparation for the Missoula Marathon and the wedding of my oldest daughter Lauren who will be married here in Hillsboro, OR in just 4 more days. I am satisfied and the most satisfying part of it is I am with daughter Mari and my dad, Garrett Wolverton.

My Dad, Garrett Wolverton, and my daughter Mari.

My dad was a fixture in the Missoula golf community for nearly 30 years in Missoula. First at the University Golf Course, then at Larchmont. Dad was on the original committee that ultimately led to the development of Larchmont by the City of Missoula because the University Golf Course had become so congested.

On Wednesdays, dad could be found playing league at Highlands Golf Course. Dad tried his hand at the Missoula Country Club Championship a couple of years and even played in the Montana State Men’s Amateur, but he really didn’t play his best in tournaments and found more enjoyment playing league.

This past weekend, I could be found stuck to the couch watching the Masters and cheering Tiger’s charge on the front nine of Augusta Sunday just as I had done so many Sundays with my dad cheering on Jack or Tom or The Shark when I was younger. I couldn’t wait to call dad and talk about it as if I was 10 again. The fact is, there is rarely a time that I step on a golf course that I don’t think about my dad.

When I was young, if I was on a golf course, it was with my dad. He taught me everything I know. I think that dad was, and is, as passionate about the game of golf as I am though he doesn’t get to play now because of some bad knees. Dad loves driving the cart now and watching my daughter Mari and I play.

Dad was born in 1935 in Anaconda, MT and lived most of his youth in Opportunity, a suburb of Anaconda. Dad’s introduction to golf came when he was 10 and a friend of his got him a job as a caddie at the Anaconda Country Club. I was surprised to find out while preparing this story, that Dad did not actually learn to play golf until he moved to Missoula.

Dad was an apprentice barber in Anaconda. He and Mom moved to Missoula in 1963 and they opened Holiday Village Barber Shop with his partner Bill Forwood (what a golf name, but I don’t think Bill played the game). Dad and Mom took lessons through the University of Montana at the University course. Mom didn’t stick with it, but Dad clearly fell in love.

The UM Golf Course...Good Memories!

By the time I was old enough for dad to take me to the course, he was no longer competing except in league events. Dad tells me that I started going with him to the course at age 7, but at about age 5, Dad had a golf club that he cut down and added a grip and I would swing it in the yard or at the park.

Now, you are probably wondering, “Todd, this is interesting and all, but why are you telling me about your dad?” The short answer is, “I don’t know. Just thought you might want to know.” The longer answer is a bit more complicated. For you to truly understand me, you have to understand my relationship with my dad and golf.

So, to continue, I can honestly say that Dad is my best friend in the whole world. When I was young, I wanted to be just like Dad.

Dad was a singer, so I wanted to be a singer. I almost made a career out of it in fact. Dad played basketball, I played basketball. I was too short to make a career out of that. Dad played golf so, I played golf……with him. Golf was one of the few things that I could do with him. Dad sang in the Mendelssohn Club and the Rocky Mountainaires as well as at church. I was too young to be a part of that. Dad played basketball and softball on church leagues. I was too young for that.

Golf was the one way that I could do what Dad loved to do with him. My earliest and most vivid  memory of golfing with Dad was standing on the 6th tee at the University Golf Course. Dad and I had been paired up with 2 other gentlemen. I must have been about 13 at the time. I remember striking one up the left hand side of the fairway… it was a fade as I am left handed… right around the tree on the left that guards the corner.

The drive must have been about 250 yards, leaving me an 8 iron to the green. One of the gentlemen we were with exclaimed “Great drive. That boy of yours has quite a golf swing.” All I could think was. “Yep, just like Dad.” I know exactly how that feels as I hear that all the time when Mari and I are paired up with some unsuspecting folks who have never seen her hit a ball.

One year while I was in college, Dad and I played league together. Dad played #2 and I #3. Dad was always a better scorer than me until I was about 20, but secretly, I always wanted Dad to play well enough to beat me. It was hard to get used to Dad not beating me.

Me and my daughter, Mari

I graduated from U of M in ‘88 and moved with my wife and daughter Lauren to Seattle and didn’t play much with Dad after that until he and Mom moved to Vancouver, WA in 1992. My wife Cindy and I had moved to Portland in ‘89 so once again, Dad and I found ourselves playing together. We had both added a stroke or two (or 10 for me) to our handicaps by then. I wasn’t playing much. I was struggling to get my career started and didn’t have the time or the cash to golf much, but when I did, more times than not, it was with Dad.

Dad was there the first time I took my daughter Mari to the course. It was like a passing of the torch to a new generation. Dad was there the first time Mari played a round of golf. Remember the course where I hit the 75 at the beginning of this story? Same course. Dad was Mari’s first teacher. I was Mari’s dad. She wasn’t ready to accept me as a teacher. I wasn’t very good at teaching her. I loved teaching kids golf, but it was much harder teaching Mari. I was her dad.

I also saw something special in Mari and I wanted her to want to be great. My dad just wanted her to have fun. Dad just wanted me to have fun. If there is one thing I appreciate the most about my dad is that he never, ever put pressure on me to be great at anything. Dad just wanted me to love what I was doing. No expectations! Thanks, Dad!

So, how do I wrap up this yarn that I have been spinning? It’s been 40 years since I first started walking the fairways of the University of Montana Golf Course. I’ve learned that the Montana State Senate passed a resolution which will allow the University System to move forward with plans to build a new School of Technology on the grounds of that same course.

The University of Montana Golf Course. Let's enjoy it while we can!

No matter what that course becomes, it will not ever be the same.  It will never again be the course where my dad learned to play the game that became his passion. It will never again be the course that I walked every week with my dad and learned the game that would become my passion.

It will never again be the course that I jumped the fence on #7 and played into the club house almost every day for 3 straight summers in the late 70’s — where I would stop at the club house, buy a Dr. Pepper, a Snickers and 10 Swedish Fish and play 27 holes. And, it will never again be the course on which I walk my dog on and have all the memories of my youth come streaming back.

So, until then, I plan on getting in as many rounds there with Mari as I can so she has memories to share when she is my age. I took her there on Sunday. We had a great time and made some sweet memories together.

If you have memories of the University of Montana Golf Course, please leave a comment for everyone to read.

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Todd Wolverton was born in Missoula and is a UM class of ‘88 alum. Todd and has been an avid golfer for over 40 years, but make no mistake, he’s no pro. He’s just a guy on the course yelling “fore”. Todd is the first to tell you he has his good days and his bad – more bad than good – but to him there are no bad days that include golf. Yes, Todd loves to tell stories and right here is where you will hear them–on a weekly basis. You can expect stories about his latest round, stuff he knows or thinks he knows, and interesting anecdotes about the the past and the present in the world of golf as he knows it…….Missoula area golf!