Nichols: Playing in my alumni fundraiser a refreshing experience

LAKELAND, Fla – We hadn’t even made it to the first green when I blurted out my first “When I was in school …” line. I had sized up Florida Southern senior Kolby Ann McWilliams’ team uniform and thought back to our days of pleated khakis and oversized shirts.

“When I was in school, we had to wear men’s shirts.”

By the second hole, I’d told McWilliams that today’s equipment would’ve basically revolutionized my college golf game.

“When I was in school, we didn’t have hybrids.”

This carried on for most of the day at the Hinson-Bates/Boring Business Systems Invitational. By the time McWilliams told us about Chick-Fil-A in the cafeteria, I was in full on walked-to-school-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways mode.

“We were born at the wrong time,” joked my old teammate, Jana Peterkova.

We’d come back to play in the golf team’s annual fundraiser for our alma mater, Florida Southern College. Note to all college golf alumni: Sign up for yours. It will be the best $100 you’ve spent in a long time.

Our scramble team was made up of Peterkova, a two-time Division II NCAA champion, instructor and mother of two, and make-everything McWilliams, a 21-year-old who putted like Inbee Park.

The cheery McWilliams guided us around Grasslands Golf and Country Club, lasering yardages and reading all putts. She was the consummate host, taking in our Florida Southern history lessons and gladly sharing all that has changed. She was “Kolbs” to us by the end of our 15-under round.

McWilliams has only one class left, a senior seminar, making it possible for the Business Administration major to fill in for the alumni whose jobs got in the way. In July, she’ll move to Dallas to take part in the IBM Summit Program. Her father, Shannon, also played golf at Florida Southern and graduated in 1988. Kolby’s goal is to make it far enough in the business world to tee it up at Augusta National and bring dad.

There’s something heartwarming about meeting current players and realizing they are as quality as your old teammates.

At lunch we connected with a couple more alumni and snapped photos with our old college coaches – Robbie Davis and Norm Benn. Davis, who has led the Mocs to four NCAA titles, still heads up the program, but 84-year-old Benn has retired. If there’s one thing Peterkova and I wished McWilliams could’ve experienced from our heyday, it’s the incomparable Benn. We’d gladly go back to those 4-irons and ill-fitting uniforms to take another van ride with our beloved assistant coach.

Time has a way of growing appreciation. Sixteen years have passed since I graduated from college. There’s talk of a reunion in 2020, with teammates from as far away as Swaziland making the trek back to Lakeland.

McWilliams said she plans to come back every year to play in the golf team fundraiser. See you there, Kolbs.

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