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Pin High: Feddern, Mill Creek buzzing

Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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GENEVA – Mill Creek director of golf Steve Feddern allows his 6-year-old black lab, Natalie, to roam about the clubhouse each day.

There’s a water bowl for her in the pro shop, but the dog – named for LPGA Tour member Natalie Gulbis – often can be spotted elsewhere.

Similarly, Feddern moved around in addressing numerous topics during my visit to the course Thursday morning. Here’s a look at some highlights in an edited transcript:

Participation in the junior league here has exploded. How did it take off?
When I got here, and I’m going into my fourth full year, there were 50 kids. It was kind of disorganized. ... When I came aboard and with the help of [Batavia-based pro] Rich [Flores], we kind of had a totally different approach. We said, well, if we’ve got this great practice facility, if we’ve got the nine-hole short course across the street – we call it Little Big Creek – and our job is to grow the game. ... We have a slew, an awesome team of volunteers, and it’s from Geneva High School girls, Batavia boys, all these high school kids come out and help volunteer. And then the next thing you know, we can handle 200 kids, and then it goes to 250 and now it’s over 300. It’s insane.

It’s got to be uplifting to see Rich Flores [a cancer survivor] back in these parts.
He’s technically not a Mill Creek employee. He teaches on his own kind of thing, but he’s an absolutely integral part of the team here. ... Slowly last year he returned, this year it’s full-time. I’ve been his best friend since I was a kid, so it’s all meant a lot to me.

Do you sense there might ever be a jump in fall prep golf participation considering all the new concussion legislation with football?
I never really thought about it in a concussion football sense, but that’s interesting. ... It’s a lifetime sport of whether you make it to the [PGA] Tour or whether you want to do it for business or whether you want to do it once a month after you have kids just to get out of the house. Whatever. There’s so many different avenues, and you can literally play it your whole life. ... There’s that stigma that it’s boring and it’s slow and all that kind of stuff, but I think we’re kind of trying to break the walls down.

You’ve talked about efforts to speed up the pace of play. What’s going on there?
What we’re doing as a golf course is just making people aware that it’s everybody’s responsibility ... we’re making fun signs and giving feedback with the rangers, setting the course to play a little faster. ... But also, if everybody would take it upon themselves to literally think, ‘What am I doing right now? Why am I taking 10 minutes to look for a ball that I know is gone?’ Just drop one, hit it and go on. You know what I mean? You’re going to enjoy yourself more, and then you’re helping the pace of play. You’re not making it worse. So if people can attack it with that mindset, we don’t get as many complaints and can get more golfers through that will enjoy the game more.

What’s the status quo for pace of play?
I’m OK with 41/2 [hours for a foursome for 18 holes]. I get it. Fifteen minutes a hole – I think it should be 14, but whatever. Fifteen minutes is fine. But that would put you at 41/2 hours, and that includes the drives in between the holes and all that stuff.

How do people take to Natalie?
She’s the course dog. She’s our goose chaser and all that. She comes here every day and chases the geese and the kids love her. She’s kind of part of the team, too. Everybody that comes here, literally when they open the door and they’re like, ‘Where’s Natalie?’ ... She’s like a fixture here. It’s funny.

How often do you play? I get to play sometimes. I try to sneak out and play a little bit on Tuesday mornings, and Natalie, she runs all 18 holes and it’s fun. Other than that, we’re too busy right now. You don’t get into the golf business to play golf. I’ll just leave it at that.

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

CHIP-INS
Hey, junior
Sunday marks the registration deadline for the St. Charles Junior Tournament, a two-day, 18-hole event to be held Wednesday and Thursday at Pottawatomie Golf Course. Playing groups will be divided into age divisions for boys 16-17, 14-15 and 12-13, as well as girls 15-17 and 12-14. Cost is $30, and tee times begin at 7 a.m. For more information, contact Pottawatomie assistant pro Bill Ogiego at 630-584-8356 or email bogiego@stcparks.org.

Anthony's ace
Anthony Sperando's recreational round with fellow 2012 Kaneland graduates Drew Peters and Thanasi Pesmajoglu last month took a spirited turn as the threesome approached the pin of the sixth hole atBliss

Creek. That's when the group discovered Sperando wasn't just spot-on with his 7-iron on the par-3, 151-yard hole. He was an ace among the rest of the golfers on the Sugar Grove course.

Sperando shouted in jubilation after peering into the cup to realize he had notched a hole-in-one, but later turned more tender when addressing the feat. The 18-year-old Bradley sophomore couldn't help crediting and saluting grandfather Richard Sendarak, 84, who still is after his first ace.

"He's been playing for almost all of his life and he's never had one, so that makes it kind of special that I was able to get it at such a young age," Sperando said. "He's taught me a lot about the game, so it's pretty special to be able to tell him that I got a hole-in-one."

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