Cedar Rapids Country Club’s Tom Feller, CGCS, (center) with part-time crew member Brian Benning (left) and volunteer Tim Crumbaugh from Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Photos by Howard Richman
Tom Feller, CGCS, has his office practically in the middle of the 18-hole course at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Country Club, as the maintenance facility is housed between the ninth green and 10th tee. The work of Feller and his team has undoubtedly been central to the most significant event in the club’s history, currently in progress.
Since Saturday, Cedar Rapids CC has been hosting its first USGA championship, the 58th U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, which is only the third USGA championship ever to be held in Iowa (the previous two were the 1963 U.S. Amateur and 1999 U.S. Senior Open). Feller, a 31-year GCSAA member, has embraced the opportunity to showcase the club, where he has worked since 2002.
“It speaks a lot of us as a club. It took some time to get here, and now we’re here,” Feller said Tuesday morning on what was a busy day at the facility, featuring match play for both the round of 32 and round of 16 in the six-day event, which is scheduled to conclude with the finals on Thursday. “It’s exciting. It’s something we’ve put in a lot of time to get ready for.”
Brent Larson, a student volunteer from Iowa State University, has a handle — and foot — on cup duty on No. 10 during the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at Cedar Rapids Country Club.
To assist Feller and his staff — which includes assistants Keegan Cook, Ben Smiley and Michael Tibor and equipment manager Scott Dey — a collection of volunteers has swarmed Cedar Rapids CC. They include Chauncey Barry of Twin Pines Golf Course in Cedar Rapids; Chris Coen of Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines; Nick Kray of Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids; Brett Parcher of Muscatine (Iowa) Municipal Golf Course; Tim Salazar of Quincy (Ill.) Country Club; Rick Tegtmeier, CGCS, MG, of Des Moines Golf and Country Club; and John Temme of Wakonda Club in Des Moines.
The Cedar Rapids CC grounds have gotten high marks from USGA regional agronomist John Daniels. “Tom and his staff are in a strong place right now,” says Daniels of the course, which is playing as a 5,732-yard par-72 for the championship. “I know the ladies have been happy with the golf course. It’s wonderful how green and how healthy everything is.”
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur features standouts such as Ellen Port of St. Louis, who entered chasing history, having already won seven USGA championships. The record, for men and women, is nine apiece by Bobby Jones and Tiger Woods.
Feller earned a degree in agronomy and golf course management from Horry Georgetown Technical College in Conway, S.C., and also holds a degree in business and organizational management from Hannibal-LaGrange University in Hannibal, Mo. He spent nearly 10 years as the superintendent at Quincy (Ill.) Country Club before coming on board at Cedar Rapids CC, which is the only course in Iowa designed by legendary architect Donald Ross.
A view of the 10th green at Cedar Rapids Country Club, which is enjoying its moment in the sun as it hosts its first USGA championship this week.
Since Feller arrived, the club has restored numerous lost features from the original 1915 layout. The efforts included removing about 2,000 trees, which has opened vistas, created views and improved turf health. The work, with guidance from architect Ron Prichard, was completed in 2016.
“It (course) had a bowling alley effect,” Feller says of the former layout, which resembled a cathedral of trees in spots, “so we brought in the USGA, arborists, ID’d trees. We still have trees, but plant health is much improved.”
The Iowa GCSA Superintendent of the Year in 2013, Feller seems to have had a slew of top-rated superintendents at his disposal — and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “One of the most enjoyable parts of this week is having friends come over to help,” Feller says. “That’s what it’s all about — teamwork and camaraderie.”
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.