A group of local golf enthusiasts seeking to create a nine-hole youth course at Mozingo Lake Recreation Park have received a big vote of confidence from one of the game's all-time masters — Tom Watson.
A native of the Kansas City area, where he still lives, Watson ranked as one of the best players in the world during the 1970s and '80s, winning eight major championships and heading the PGA Tour money list five times.
The fairway legend visited city-owned Mozingo Lake Golf Course this week to walk the site of the proposed youth course, which his company has been asked to design. If built, the course would occupy roughly 30 acres of open ground northeast of the Mozingo Lake Golf Course clubhouse.
Dr. Bruce Twaddle, a Maryville dentist who is leading efforts to establish the youth course, said the extent of involvement by Tom Watson Design has yet to be determined, but that Watson himself left Maryville impressed.
"To provide a place for young people from all around the surrounding community here to come learn the game and have fun at it, that’s a tribute to Bruce Twaddle and the people of Maryville to make this happen," Watson said in an exclusive interview taped during his visit.
"Great ideas start with a lot of people scratching their heads. 'Well that’s a good idea, but how can we make it work?' Well, right now, I think the train is starting to roll pretty fast. Jump on board because it’s going to work."
The effort to create a youth course at Mozingo began several months ago after Twaddle and others began discussions with The First Tee, a "youth development organization" that seeks to put golf clubs into the hands of children and teenagers.
Twaddle said Thursday those talks have reached the point where The First Tee's Kansas City chapter is expected to endorse the Mozingo initiative. The central issue now, he said, is money.
Cost of building a youth course at Mozingo and creating a sustainable youth golf program to serve the Maryville region is estimated at $550,000 said Twaddle, who added that a not-yet-named foundation has agreed to donate $25,000 outright and to provide an additional $75,000 match providing the same amount of cash can be raised locally.
So the immediate goal, Twaddle said, is to have $175,000 in hand for the youth course before the end of the year. He said Watson's warm endorsement should serve as a major boost as the fund drive continues at both the individual and corporate levels.
During the Maryville interview, Watson said he was impressed both by Mozingo's physical attributes and the community's commitment to expanding opportunities for young people.
"It’s great to have a nice piece of land, such as this land right here at Mozingo Lake," Watson said. "It has the rolls to it, it has natural holes set up where you don’t have to do much moving of the earth to make a golf course here.
Page 2 of 2 - "... (But) the defining factor is the people behind the project to make it work. This community has gravitated toward this project. The way the people are looking at this project it’s very important for this community, and they’re going to get it done.
"That’s the most important factor of a project like this. It’s not the lay of the land, it’s not the golf course, it’s the people behind it who will then be the coaches for the kids to get these kids started at the game."