Before the first Big Red Scramble, golfers head to their starts at Iron Horse.
By Randy York
Wednesday’s first-ever Big Red Scramble at popular Ashland golf courses Iron Horse and Quarry Oaks – located 10 minutes from each other – drew 59 teams, 236 players and positive reviews from those who participated in the inaugural event. Designed to consolidate Husker events supporting a single sport into one extravaganza to promote and thank all sports’ fans and donors, the Big Red Scramble may have defined itself as the way of the future.
“Wow! What a day for a Husker fan!” said Ken Baldwin of Omaha. “Golf was great, but the other stuff, like talking to former players from the past and having Tim Miles hit a drive for us, made it so much fun. I thank Nebraska Athletics for giving some of us fans an opportunity to mingle with some great guys we normally just read about or see in the media.”
Baldwin, who just missed a hole-in-one on No. 2 at Iron Horse when his tee-shot stopped six inches short of winning a free Chevrolet, got a kick out of watching Miles and former Husker football players Cory Ross and Barrett Ruud hit drivers for him and team members Gene Burton, Tyson Owens and Ryan Bargen. The four were also the beneficiaries of putts from former Huskers Eric Crouch, Jamie Williams and Kenny Wilhite, as well as swimming coach Pablo Morales, men’s gymnastics coach Chuck Chmelka and athletic department administrator Steve Waterfield.
Hole 7 at Quarry Oaks is a pristine part of one of Nebraska’s finest courses.
Winning Teams Shoot 19 and 16 under Par
The foursome of Judd Knispel, Jerry Knispel, Devon Wegner and Aaron Stockton combined to post a score of 55, 16-under par, to win the Iron Horse competition. At Quarry Oaks, Mike Hershberger, James Hershberger, T.J. Reynolds and Chad Geiger combined to score a 52, a sizzling 19-under par. Interestingly, both winning teams included a father-son combination. Jerry Knispel, a bank president in Fairbury, Neb., is the father of Judd Knispel, an insurance agent in Council Bluffs. And Mike Hershberger is the father of James Hershberger. Both are Certified Public Accountants in Lincoln.
Huskers contributing celebrity drives at Quarry Oaks were Lauren Cook, Jay Moore, Scott Gutschewski, Alex Henry, Steve Taylor and Darin Erstad. Talk about a stacked deck. Gutschewski helped Nebraska to a 14th-place finish in the NCAA Golf Championships in 1999 before going on to play on the PGA Tour. Erstad isn’t a professional golfer, but he hits the ball so far that one of Nebraska’s premier golf courses, The Dismal near Thedford, once asked him to drive a new hole they were building to determine whether the make it a long par 3 or a short par 4.
Nebraska’s two head golf coaches, Robin Krapfl and Bill Spanger, each contributed bonus approach shots at Quarry Oaks, and in my mind, they had to be stroke-savers for all kinds of foursomes. In the foursome I was in at Iron Horse, for instance, we could not have had much better support on the tee-box and green. Judd Cornell, an assistant coach under Spangler for the men’s golf team, unleashed a 310-yard drive for us.
Omahans Don Perry, Jim Perry and Vernon Rahn saw Cory Ross hit 320 yards.
Cory Ross Drive Takes Off Like a Rocket
Cory Ross, Nebraska football’s Offensive MVP of the Year in both 2004 and 2005 despite being only 5-foot-6 and 195 pounds, drove a ball that we estimated to be about 315 yards. It took off like a rocket and when it finally landed, our rag-tag team was in ideal position for one of our rare birdies. Kudos also to Heisman Trophy winner Crouch, whose putt saved our group an ugly bogey. I did not ask if Nebraska Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm made any putts at Quarry Oaks, but I’m sure he did because Williams rolled in a long putt on No. 18, and the length of that putt is bound to get longer by the day.
Bottom line, Sarah Hannon, a native of York, Neb., and coordinator for the Huskers Athletic Fund, did a great job organizing this first-of-its-kind event that served members from all 18 athletic booster clubs.
“Our goal was to make this a friend-raiser more than a fund-raiser,” Hannon said Thursday. “We wanted to give back to all our friends and donors who so generously support us all year long. This is the largest golf event we’ve ever put together, and it was fun to see all the programs represented. We had 20 coaches, former players and administrators who were also part of the event.” It’s too early to say Wednesday’s experience guarantees the way Nebraska Athletics will do business in the future, but the first attempt at consolidating such events was, at the very least, encouraging.
Weber Grill not a Bad Consolation Prize
Baldwin, of course, was among the happiest participants. He didn’t win the car when his putt on No. 2 stopped six inches short, but he did win a Weber grill for being closest to the hole. “I’ve never had a hole-in-one,” said the retired Omaha Westside Community Schools administrator. “The feat of doing something I’ve never done would have been more important to me than the new car.” The good news is, there’s always next year, and Ken Baldwin probably will be among the first who will enter the 2015 event.
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