The first USNA golf course was south across the new Academy Bridge (MD 450) outside of Gate 8, down the road from the pool and where the attached housing is, just overlooking the Severn River. As picturesque as this setting was, it was not to be the final course.
In the early 1920's, the front nine holes were ready for play at the present site of the USNA golf course on Greenbury Point Rd. The back nine weren't part of the completed structure until 1943 and the first USNA Golf Team was formed in 1930.
The Academy's first priority is to find the best in potential military leaders, with above average students, and then hope that there will be those among them who will qualify for athletic teams. With 30 varsity sports, the desire for strong athletes is shared by all the military academies. The student athlete must want the military academy life and be willing to balance study, training and varsity sports.
Golf, unlike other sports, requires a lot of time to hone one's skills. Ask any hopeful how many hours are spent at the driving range, on the putting green or even in a sand trap. Academy students are already pressed for time. But these athletes have already proven that their dedication to the sport, and to the Naval Academy, will help them find a way to succeed.
The Academy recruits its golfers by sending about five hundred letters to prospective students. From those, about fifty will respond, and ten of those will qualify for the school. One of those ten will enroll. Yet even with that percentage of enlistment, Navy and Army have won four of the last six Patriot League Championships against the likes of Lehigh and Bucknell.
Golf in the college ranks has the distinction of playing two seasons: Spring and Fall. The Navy team is formed in August of each year. Typically there are twenty-five players vying for twelve places. There is no JV Team, so every spot is up for grabs. The practice availability is layered with classes, rides to the course and weather. The coach holds a seventy-two hole qualifier. This is stroke not match play.
The Fall schedules six matches with Ivy League and local (Georgetown, Loyola, GW) teams. The important Service Academy Classic at the Dallas Trophy Club in Texas has Navy, Army, Air Force and the Merchant Marine Academy competing against each other and the contest has the dual role of being both the last and best event of the Fall.
This Autumn classic started before Air Force had a varsity golf team and the organizers invited the USNA, USMA and USMMA as participants. As the larger competition among West Point, Navy and Air Force developed, the invitation included Kings Point. Navy has won four out of the last six years.
Spring is all Patriot League. The team usually consists of twelve players. The top five travel to scheduled meets, except for the Army match. For that rivalry, everyone goes.
The team isn't just the players, it's the person who guides and coaches the team. For Navy, that person has been Patrick Owen. Pat joined the staff in 1988 as an assistant pro. His résumé belies his talents as a golfer. In 1981, he graduated from Johns Hopkins as a social and behavioral science major, but, he was also the captain of his golf team. Born and raised in Annapolis, he married Karen Durm, an Annapolitan, Washington College grad and captain of her college lacrosse team. Seems like Annapolis and sports were destined to be part of their lives, as Karen coached the Broadneck High School girls' lacrosse team for a time. Their partnership has been successful at home with Patrick, 7, and Noelle, 3, and with the team. In 1991, Pat had two major accomplishments: he qualified for the PGA and was made Navy Golf Coach/Club Pro. His predecessor was Larry Ringer, a PGA tour player throughout the '70's.
Pat has brought a steady hand to the consistent wins that the team posts regularly each Fall and Spring. The 'N' Star Match is the event with West Point, and Navy has won this Ryder Cup-style meet six consecutive times between 1998 and 2003.
In 2004, Navy team captain, Billy Hurley, posted the finest record in Navy Golf Team history. His year was highlighted by wins at the Service Academy Classic, the William and Mary Invitational and as his selection as Captain of the 2004 Palmer Cup Team.
Coach Owen is boastful only when talking of the young men who have been on his teams. His pride in their strength, sportsmanship and camaraderie is evident in his desire to showcase their work, their wins and their lifelong bond. No team can accomplish all that the Navy team has without the historic foundation of Academy life and the fine leadership of Navy coaching.