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Community Fights to Save UM Golf Course

Photo courtesy of iskir/Flickr

The University of Montana’s plans to develop the area known as South Campus has a lot of people seeing red over the possible loss of green.

UM President Royce Engstrom announced in December that the school would build a new college of technology, along with several additional academic buildings, on the parcel of land currently occupied by the University of Montana Golf Course.

A group of concerned Missoula residents calling themselves “Advocates for Missoula’s Future” haven’t given up their fight to save the golf course. They met March 13 to discuss strategies for drumming up support for their cause.

Even though I’ve never played a single round of golf in my entire life, the UM Golf Course holds a special place in my heart. As a high school cross country runner, I looked forward to the annual Mountain West Classic — which is held at the golf course every fall — more than any other race of the season.

In college, my teammates and I always thought of the golf course as our “home field.” We hosted at least one cross-country meet a year there, and I spent countless crisp, early mornings and hot September afternoons running repeats on the outskirts of its greens and fairways.

It’s the only golf course I’ve ever run on where the golfers are actually friendly toward runners. There were many times when we were technically not supposed to be out there, but I don’t think we ever heard a single complaint or nasty comment. Instead, the golfers would take a break from their games to cheer us on as we ran ourselves to exhaustion.

I still head over there once in a while to run a few hills or bust out some strides. When I think of that space being covered up with concrete and bricks, it makes my heart ache a little. The impact the course has had on the community of Missoula — and the entire state of Montana — extends far beyond the golfers who walk its fairways. If UM goes through with its plans, it will leave a hole in the Garden City that no amount of cement will ever be able to fill.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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