With Help From PU Men’s Golf Alum Francis, Springdale Golf Club Hosting AJGA Event
ON COURSE: A view of the third hole at the Springdale Golf Club, which is hosting the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Championship from July 30-August 1. The field of the event includes 71 of the top boy and girl junior players in the country. (Photo Courtesy of Springdale Golf Club)
By Bill Alden
For Stuart Francis, the lessons he learned spending hours around the Springdale Golf Club while competing for the Princeton University men’s golf team in the early 1970s changed the course of his life.
“We had a team of very good players; like all Princeton student athletes, they worked hard on their game and hard academically,” said Francis, a 1974 Princeton alum who was the co-captain of the Tigers his senior year, helping the team win the Ivy League title and earning All-Ivy and All-American honors.
“What it provided for me was just a good platform where you could play major competitive golf but you could still do what you thought you needed to do to invest in a career that would ultimately not be golf dominant. I just thought it was spectacular.”
After earning an MBA from Stanford in 1977, Francis has gone on to enjoy a spectacular career in Silicon Valley, where he is currently an investment banker and senior managing director for Evercore, leading the firm’s technology practice.
Golf is still a big part of his life as Francis has won more than 15 club championships in the Northern California area and has been a member of the USGA Executive Committee since 2014.
While he initially balked at serving on the USGA committee due to his hectic work schedule, he has enjoyed that role.
“It has turned out to be incredibly interesting and rewarding,” said Francis. “The USGA tries to do the right thing for golf, so it has been fun to be part of it.”
Doing the right thing for golf and his old college stomping ground, Francis is providing financial support to help sponsor the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Championship, which is being held at Springdale from July 30-August 1.
“I have followed the AJGA for many years; they fill a very important role in the junior golf community,” said Francis, who has also endowed the Princeton men’s golf head coaching position.
“They run first-class tournaments. When I heard they were exploring going to Springdale, I said it would be a great opportunity for a lot of the best young players to be able to play at an AJGA event and really see what Princeton is all about and potentially get them to think about that in their aspirations along with other schools. It would be good for Princeton, it would be good for Springdale.”
In the view of Kevin Tylus, a longtime Springdale member and the president of its board, hosting the AJGA event dovetails with the club’s strong emphasis on juniors.
“Our junior golf program has won two annual awards from the NJ PGA foundation; junior golf is a major commitment at Springdale,” said Tylus.
“We have as many as girls as we have boys in the program; they range from five years old to seniors in high school.”
Landing the event was a group effort for Springdale as club pro Keith Stewart reached out to his network of NJ PGA contacts while golf chairman Mario Tamasi worked directly with the AJGA.
“We were awarded a tournament site, which is a really big deal,” said Tylus, noting that the AJGA field includes 39 top boy and 32 top girl junior players in the country, with Springdale’s Caroline Tamasi (Mario’s niece) having qualified.
Tylus credited Francis with playing a big role in the process.
“Stu is a very generous guy promoting junior golf,” said Francis, noting that Princeton men’s golf coach Will Green also helped bring the tourney to Springdale.
“He has been very generous to the Princeton golf endowment; he is just a big supporter of everything that is good about golf.”
In addition to giving up their course, Springdale members will be supporting the event in a variety of ways.
“We have about 50 members who are volunteering for the event; there is a lot of hard work that goes into it,” said Tylus.
“We will have the course in great shape. The event is open to the public; there is no admission fee and we welcome members of other clubs and the public to see these great kids play.”
Tylus believes that those kids will gain a lot from being around the course and town.
“We want the kids to be able to see the Princeton area and have the experience of playing on an old design at a William Flynn course,” added Tylus, pointing out that Flynn also designed such iconic courses as Merion, Pine Valley, and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, among many others.
For the club, hosting the tournament should be a positive experience.
“It is part of a renewed excitement at Springdale,”said Tylus, noting that the club hosted the NJPGA tournament for New Jersey Club professionals this spring and has been awarded the NJ PGA senior and super senior championships for 2019.
“We have the new licensing agreement with the University; it was an excellent collaboration. The earliest we can be notified and the land can cease as a golf course is 2032. We are pleased with the outcome; the administration has been most welcoming to understanding the challenges of the golf industry today and what is special about Springdale.”
In the view of Francis, the tight layout of the course will provide a good challenge for the young stars.
“I think they have to use a little more finesse; it is not just bomb it and knock it on to the green,” said Francis. “You are going to have to hit clubs other than a driver off the tee on a number of holes. They will rarely play a golf course with greens as small as Springdale’s are. The ups and downs from the sides of the green are pretty difficult because the greens aren’t that wide.”
Beyond testing their skills, Francis hopes that golfers involved in the competition will draw some of the lessons he has gained from the game.
“Golf has meant so much to me; it taught me how to be mature, it taught me how to interact with grownups, it taught me how to have the right level of decorum in all events,” asserted Francis.
“It helped me clarify where I wanted to go to college. It has helped me throughout my whole life. From my standpoint whatever I give back to the game, either financially or with my time or both, is a drop in the bucket compared to what golf has given to me.”