SOUTH BEND — John Postle was prompted to make the major donation for a $600,000 addition at the Studebaker Golf Course clubhouse because of the friendships and life lessons he learned there as a youth.“We only lived four or five blocks from Studebaker, so we were there almost every day,” said Postle, who built an aluminum extrusion business in Elkhart that he sold 15 years ago. “We were golf rats — just a bunch of young kids who loved the game.”And he’s hoping that The John & Kathy Postle Golf Learning Center, built at the nine-hole, city-owned course adjacent to Riley High School, helps spark a love of the game that he enjoyed. The center features a golf course simulator, a putting green, classroom space and a kitchen.
“It’s one of the few sports that you can enjoy most of your life,” said Postle, who will be among those at the official dedication of the facility on Friday afternoon. “I can’t wrestle or run track anymore, but I can still play golf.”The 2,800-square-foot addition will be leased for 25 years by First Tee of Indiana-Michiana, which will use the facility and the Studebaker course to teach golf and serve as a community gathering spot for area children, primarily ages 7 to 17.Jenny Zimmerman, who has served as site director for First Tee the past three years, said the center will allow the organization to conduct programs throughout the year. Even when Studebaker is shut down for inclement weather, for example, participants will be able to work on putting and chipping inside the new center or choose from among 86 golf courses on a simulator.It also could be a place for neighborhood children get school work done before working on their golf skills or come back in the evening to watch a movie or gather with family members.
One of the goals of the First Tee program is to expand interest in the game among people who might have financial barriers to entering the sport. The city donates the use of the golf course and others donate money, equipment and time to ensure that everyone can play, even those without the ability to handle the modest fees.Zimmerman, who played golf at Mishawaka High School and then at the University of Michigan, gave up a law career to serve as area director of the First Tee program, recalling the sportsmanship and friendships she developed while playing golf.“I believe I now have the best job in the world,” she said.Beyond golf, the First Tee program teaches nine core values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.Those values are inherent in golf, according to Zimmerman. “What other sport do you keep your own score and monitor your own fouls?” she asked.After several years of decline, golf enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the past year because it was considered a relatively safe activity during the pandemic. Officials hope to keep that momentum and add to it with programs like First Tee.“The rules and etiquette of the game teach life lessons that will help you no matter what you pursue in life,” Postle said. “A lot of successful people first learned those lessons at Studebaker.”