September 24, 2017
|A Conversation With University Ridge General Manager Mike Gaspard|
|Mike Gaspard GM University Ridge|
|University Ridge Clubhouse|
By E. NolanMike has been at the University of Wisconsin's Home Course, University Ridge, for 10 years now, an integral part of the changes and improvements made over that decade. In that time they've reworked all of the greens, a new indoor training center has been built, expansive professional practice facilities have been added, and the University Ridge course itself has been lengthened to be able to host championship events like the Wisconsin State Open, the Womens NCAA Regional (next Spring), this fabulous Champions Tour event and (hopefully) maybe even the NCAA Championships in the future. (Clearly they are a more than capable host!)
Tee Times: How does hosting the American Family Insurance Championship affect the club?
Mike Gaspard: We already get plenty of recognition for being the University of Wisconsin's home course - one of the best college courses in the country. This fantastic Champions Tour event only adds to that recognition. The reciprocal goodwill in the Madison community is sensational. I mean...over $1 Million was given to charities from this event last year. Credit to everyone involved - guests and participants.
TT: What is your favorite part of hosting the event?
MG: The interaction with all the Tour specialists who set the tournament up is way up there. It's hard to believe how many different people (Tour staff and volunteers) are involved in one event. I'm so impressed with the skills and professionalism of everyone from the amazing IT people to the parking organizers and everyone else.
TT: It has to be special having the Tour stars here too. Did anyone in particular impress you last year?
MG: I enjoyed meeting John Daly last year. It was a pleasure to spend some time with him. He's very straightforward, relatable, and fun - a great guy.
TT: Ever meet a celebrity that just kind of wowed you?
MG: Sure. When I was in grade school I ran into Doc Rivers at a Dairy Queen in Waukesha with some of my friends. Still have no idea what he was doing there, but that definitely left an impression. (Great story!)
TT: Did you have a childhood hero?
MG: Actually, I did, and he was just here - Bo Jackson. Such an amazing athlete.
TT: How about a favorite Teacher?
MG: I'd go with Pat Cerroni - now the UW Oshkosh Head Football Coach that almost won the national championship last year. Such a fun, great teacher who made history interesting and really looked out for kids.
TT: Did you have any mentors in the golf business that impacted your career?
MG: I give D.J. Flanders credit for his leadership example, and he's now the Vice President of Operations with Troon Golf (easily one of the world's best management companies).
TT: What is your favorite part of being GM at University Ridge?
MG: Working with the staff year in and out, all the new and veterans... seeing the daily excitement of people discovering the course. We're blessed to have a phenomenal superintendent (see Phil Davidson's profile in this issue). Being a college course is really unique and fun, too. We get plenty of student athletes out here. (Great student rate: Only $29 to walk. $48 to ride.)
TT: You obviously know this course inside and out. Tell someone who has never been here about a great hole on the Front?
MG: #4 has two dimensions of approach, two difficult shots. Morse Pond makes you pay attention off the tee and then there's an uphill shot to a very undulated green. Get your par and get out of there.
TT: What about a great hole on the Back?
MG: #16 is a Par 5 featuring split fairways with an elevated tee box. Very picturesque. It has a pretty big but hard to hit green with all the sloped hills around it.
TT: If you could build a house in any one spot on your property where would you put it?
MG: Probably just left of the #17 green. Having a porch where you can watch people fire away at a heavily guarded par 3. It's truly one of the best spectating spots for our events.
TT: You know the city of Madison pretty well, too. Off property, what's the best golf hole in the city?
MG: (He literally answered before I finished the question.) Bishops Bay #18. The wow factor of that hole, with the Capitol Building and Lake Mendota. Dogleg right so you can't see what you're hitting at and then BOOM. Such an amazing backdrop.
TT: Favorite local joint (off property) to watch the big game?
MG: State Street Brats probably. Such a lively, fun atmosphere.
TT: Any other great LOCAL restaurants visitors should consider?
MG: Maybe The Old Fashioned, but seriously, come out to University Ridge and try our Buffalo Chicken Wrap.
TT: For families coming in for the event, any Madison places to highlight?
MG: The FREE Henry Vilas Zoo for sure. (Writer note: Totally agree!) My wife, son (10) and daughter (7) love the place. I enjoy watching the giraffes.
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