A native of Travelers Rest, Willie Miller arrived at
Furman in 1978 after serving a five-year stint as
head pro at nearby Green Valley Country Club.
Out of the rough
Furman golf course busier than ever
In 1995, it seemed as though the Furman Golf Course was in a proverbial sandtrap.
Increasing competition from a growing number of golf courses in Greenville County had eaten into the course’s once-stable private membership base. Though the course was still popular, tee times weren’t quite as hard to come by.
But now, three years after the course was opened to non-members, attractive tee times are coveted. The course collected $110,000 in greens fees during 1995, compared to more than $300,000 in 1998. It’s safe to say that the Furman golf course has blasted out of the sand trap and into an attractive lie on the putting green.
And the man behind the sand wedge is Willie Miller.
A native of Travelers Rest, Miller arrived at Furman in 1978 following a five-year stint as head pro at nearby Green Valley Country Club. He coached both the men’s and women’s programs until 1982 and continued to coach the men until 1996. Since then, Miller has been devoting all his time to managing the Furman golf course.
“Greenville is a very competitive golf market,” he says. “Everyone is looking to cut a deal.”
And the Furman course seems to have found a comfortable niche in that market. The course generally attracts members who want the experience of playing on an excellent course, but don’t want to pay for country club amenities such as swimming pools, restaurants and tennis courts. While an annual individual membership at the Furman course is $1,200 ($600 for employees), a country club membership can cost up to $3,000 per year.
Furman is also known as a “long” course, so it attracts players who like to test their skill with a driver.
One of Miller’s latest projects is to develop a home page for the golf course. He plans to post aerial photographs of each of the 18 holes on the page and give golfers the option of reserving a tee-time on-line. Miller is also working on a strategy to better promote the Furman course to prospective students.
Before assuming full-time duty as director of the golf course, Miller enjoyed tremendous success as a coach. He was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year five times (1983-86 and ’93) and was NCAA District III North Division Coach of the Year in 1986, when he led Furman to a 19th-place finish in the NCAA Championships.
Prior to relinquishing his role as coach of the Lady Paladins, he twice directed the Furman women to appearances in the AIAW National Championships and finished 13th in 1982. He also helped the university’s two collegiate tournaments — the Furman Intercollegiate and the Lady Paladin Invitational — develop into regular stops for a number of the nation’s top programs.