The Iowa State men’s golf team made history last weekend by tying for fourth at the NCAA Columbia Regional. The top-five finish allowed the Cyclones to advance to the NCAA Championship at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kansas beginning tomorrow (May 23-28).
It’s been a long time since the Cyclone men golfers advanced to the NCAA finals. In fact, it’s been 61 years.
In 1953, the Cyclone linksters were selected to play in the NCAA Championship after winning the Big Seven title at Veenker Memorial Golf Course. The drought ended last week when the Cyclones fired a school-record 18-under 270 in the final round of the NCAA Regional.
Dan Molyneaux was ISU’s star player in 1953, winning the Big Seven individual title to help the Cyclones win their last conference team title. The course knowledge at Veenker served the team well.
“That was a fun week,” said Molyneaux, who, in his 80s, still operates an insurance business in Davenport. “Veenker back then was a local knowledge golf course. We had a huge advantage, but we also had a good team.”
A lot has changed in college golf since 1953. Budgets and university support were almost non-existent. Members of the team came to campus and tried out.
“At Iowa State at the time, we really didn’t have any scholarships,” Molyneaux said. “I had no contact from anybody at ISU before I got there. Everybody just basically walked on through tryouts. There wasn’t much support from the athletics department, but frankly, we weren’t expecting any. We were just having fun.”
The 1953 NCAA Championship was contested at Broadmoor Country Club in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Molyneaux made the trip to Broadmoor by himself.
“I drove from Ames to Stanford (California) by myself to play in the Western Junior,” Molyneaux said. “I then met the rest of the team in Colorado Springs on my way back.”
There was a two-ball tournament prior to the NCAA Championship where the players got the chance to get a feel of the course. He was fortunate to be paired with someone who had knowledge of Broadmoor in the two-ball outing.
“The crowning achievement for me was a two-ball match before the tournament,” Molyneaux said. “I was lucky enough to get a partner who knew the course. He helped me on the greens and we were the low score at the two-ball.”
Molyneaux was blessed to play in two NCAA Championships at Iowa State (1952 & 1953). He also had help from his teammate, John McGuiness, who was also a member of both NCAA national tournament teams with the Cyclones.
“The magnitude of the facility (Broadmoor) and the field, we were kind of in awe,” said McGuiness, a native of Des Moines who currently resides in Florida. “We were playing with the teams that we had heard about- Oklahoma State, Texas, LSU, North Texas – all the big hitters. These were the guys we saw in national tournaments.”
PGA Tour legend Don January led his North Texas team to the title in 1952. Stanford won in it 1953.
“North Texas State was the big gun and I got to play with January,” McGuiness said. “We talked about it as a team playing with these guys. We said we have no control of what they do and to just go out and play and enjoy the experience.”
McGuinness echoed Molyneaux sentiments on the differences in support from then and now.
“Golf was just not that big of a deal,” McGuiness said. “There were very few scholarships. The southern schools got all of the ink and It was an honor for all of us to get there (nationals). Our coach, Jack McGuire, went with us, but he was basically a chaperone. We saw the other schools. Most of them had professional coaches. Our coaches were great guys, but they did not have a lot of experience in golf. It was a testament for us getting there and that was part of the excitement.”
Molyneaux marvels at the talent of college golfers now.
“The scores the players shoot now are so much better,” Molyneaux said. “For goodness sakes, Iowa State shot a 270 in the final round of its last tournament. That is really impressive. We could barely break 80 back in our day.”
Molyneaux will always have fond memories of the 1953 NCAA Championship. Even getting back to Ames was an adventure.
“My headlights went out on the way back,” Molyneaux remembered. “I had to follow a car back home to get back. We basically did everything all on our own. We just teed it up and let it fly.”
Indeed, times have changed. But Molyneaux, McGuinness and the 1953 Cyclones will always be remembered.
“I am very proud of that,” McGuiness said about ISU’s last trip to the NCAA finals. “It was a great experience and I will never forget it. I will also never forget the guys I played with.”