The Orange course has been a fixture in the community for nearly 60 years.
June 11, 2008
Savoy, Ill. - University of Illinois Golf Course Professional Mike Wallner is no different than any other golfer in the Midwest. He's glad to finally see some sunshine. The Orange and Blue courses themselves are gearing up for a number of summer events, including the U of I Men's and Women's Opens later this month.
Wallner is a veteran to the course and has seen many improvements and upgrades in his time in Savoy. He began at the Orange & Blue in 1987, washing carts and picking the range. He became manager/director of the course in 1996 and has served in that capacity since.
The Orange & Blue Course is rich in tradition since the Orange Course opened in 1950. It first held the U of I Open in 1953 and added a women's event in 1976. This year, the U of I Men's Open is slated for June 21-22 while the Women's Open is June 28.
One of the more popular events statewide is the annual Players Cup, which this year is July 12-13. The field caps at 100 teams and Wallner indicates that it fills up in a about a week-and-a-half. The format is divided into four sections - nine holes of scramble, nine holes of alternate shot, nine holes of better ball and nine holes of combined scores. "It usually comes down to those last nine holes to determine the winner," Wallner said.
A new irrigation system for the Orange Course is expected to be in place by early July. "The system will cover into the rough," Wallner said. "It's a big investment, but we expect to see a return on that investment."
In recent years, all the bunkers have been redone and the course has added wall-to-wall cart paths, so carts never need to be grounded. The driving range has also been remodeled.
"We are noted for quick greens," Wallner added "Our green conditions are a lot better than they were 10 years ago and very well maintained."
The Orange & Blue Golf Course maintains a close relationship with both the men's and women's teams at Illinois with a short game area and the northeast tee of the driving range designated for use only by Renee Slone and Mike Small's teams. The course also hosts the Illini summer golf camps.
The signature hole of the 36 is the No. 4 on the Orange, a 561-yard dog-leg left where water is in play on the first two shots.
"You basically have to hit three good golf shots to reach the green," Wallner said. "Most play it to the left and use a sand wedge from about the 100-yard mark. Long hitters can take it down the corner and maybe get home in two but there is a risk/reward factor. They definitely put the water in play."
Wallner said in addition to the special events, the course has a very loyal customer base. While the Orange course is set up more for championship level, the Blue course is flatter and gives fewer chances to lose golf balls.
"We are known for our affordable rates and good customer service," Wallner said. "Our busiest days see between 400 and 500 rounds. Our twilight rate for students is only $21 with a cart during the week and $22 on weekends."
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