Dear UMD Administrators:
I write to you today to express my disappointment and disgust in a proposal to repurpose the University of Maryland Golf Course land for the Track & Field/Recreation Fields Project, which was brought to the attention of golf course stakeholders and members at a meeting on July 24.
I loved the University Golf Course from the first time I played it at the Maryland High School State Championship tournament more than a decade ago. My admiration for the property — and those who frequent it — grew deeper throughout my time at this university, during which I was a student employee at the golf course. I graduated in 2017 and was hired by the Maryland State Golf Association, which serves nearly 40,000 golfers throughout the state of Maryland.
The University of Maryland Golf Course is a unique place. It is the only public, 18-hole, championship golf course in Maryland located inside the beltway. Since opening in 1959 — it was built using funds from the football team's participation in the 1952 Sugar Bowl and the 1954 and 1956 Orange Bowls — it's regularly been recognized as one of the top university golf courses in the country. Over 35,000 rounds of golf are played annually by students, faculty, staff, alumni and many others on the course.
Each year the course hosts countless junior golf tournaments, high school golf team practices and matches, fundraising outings for the University's athletic teams, and the high school state golf championship. The men's and women's golf teams also use the golf course and the Holman Short Game Facility in the Fall and Spring semesters for practice and qualifying rounds for collegiate tournaments, while the teams' locker rooms and coaches' offices are all located in the clubhouse.
Repurposing any portion of the 18-hole, championship golf course land to solve the University's recreational field and parking deficiencies and build a new track complex is not just a bad idea, it is the absolute worst possible solution. Where does one even begin to address the myriad flaws with all four of the possible options to repurpose golf course land?
What are the potential environmental impacts of golf course development? Would this plan affect the golf course's designation as a "Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary" by Audubon International? The golf course will lose members and revenue if the number of holes are reduced.
The Purple Line light rail construction will only affect the throwing fields for Track and Field, and the Maryland Transportation Authority agreed to relocate the throwing fields to adjacent green space at no cost to the university. Is it absolutely necessary to solve all of these issues with a single construction site and plan, or is it possible to use multiple sites to address these needs while keeping the 18-hole layout of the golf course intact now and for years to come?
Maybe I should start by asking how many Friends of the Golf Course and golf course stakeholders were consulted when devising any of the "golf course options" for this project. The answer is zero. This proposal disregards the tremendous fundraising capability the golf course has afforded the athletic department over the years, the gathering and recreational space that the golf course provides for current members of the university community and alumni, and the aesthetic and environmental importance it holds for our university.
In all likelihood, this plan would be the end of the golf course, which would further the division between the university and the donors who value the golf course property and the amenities it provides for students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. With the whirlwind that the university's athletic department has undergone throughout this summer following the tragic death of Jordan McNair, it's astonishing and shameful that administration officials would devise and consider a plan that chips away at an important piece of the university's history and results in even more bad press.
I'm embarrassed that my alma mater does not value its gem of a golf course, and I hope you understand the enormous mistake it would be to move forward with this plan. The university can accomplish its goals of increasing recreational fields, solving parking issues and accommodating the track and field teams, while leaving the historic, 18-hole, championship golf course intact. I strongly urge you to reconsider moving forward with this proposal and explore options that do not disturb the golf course.
W. James Hewatt
Class of 2017