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All in the Design

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The view from Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, a course former K-State men's golfer Ty Schrock designed with Jack Nicklaus. (All photos courtesy of Ty Schrock)

June 30, 2014
By Kelly McHugh

When it comes to golf, it's all in the design. 

The slope of a green, the curve of a fairway, that kidney-shaped bunker that makes you curse the game each time you hit your ball into it - every aspect of a golf course is carefully and thoughtfully designed. 

And, as a golf course design specialist for professional golfers like Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus, former K-State men's golfer Ty Schrock knows a thing of two about golf course design. 

Schrock, a 1985 Landscape Architecture graduate from K-State, sat at Colby, Kansas' Meadow Lake Golf Course surrounded by passionate Wildcat Fans attending the Northwest Kansas Catbackers Golf, Dinner and Auction. Home visiting between golf course design jobs, the Oakley, Kansas, native was excited to be in the presence of fellow K-Staters after many years away. 

Schrock transferred to K-State from Bethany College to play golf in 1983. He spent two years competing with the golf team under head coach Ray Wauthier, and, even though school and golf kept him busy enough, he found the time to train with the men's basketball practice squad and was a member of TKE fraternity.

"Back in the 80's, it was a lot different than playing there now," began Schrock whose stark white K-State polo was perfectly contrasted by his deep golfer's tan. "We didn't travel as much as they do now, and we didn't have the golf course that they do now, but it was a lot of fun. There weren't a lot of kids out there and only like three of us got scholarships, the rest of the kids walked on."

During his time at K-State, Schrock and the K-State golf team saw seven team championships under the coaching of Wauthier (who also coached the Wildcat baseball team from 1951-64), including the 1984 Kansas State Invitational and the 1983 Spartan Golf Quad.

Fast forward nearly three decades and Schrock is still finding success on the course. As a private contractor, Schrock is a design coordinator, turf specialist and construction project manager and has worked on golf courses worldwide.  

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"I'm contracted out, so I work for myself," began Schrock on his career. "I've done it for about the last 12 years. There's only about two or three of us in the United States who can do it all - golf course design, golf course maintenance, uprights, buildings, high rises."

With much of his recent work taking place in Asia, Schrock can also fluently speak three languages (plus a little bit of Chinese, he laughed) and has worked with world-renowned golfers Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Phil Mickelson - a friend he said will soon work with again in South Korea.

"It's phenomenal," said Schrock after explaining he spent the past three years working with Mickelson on a course in China. "As a kid, you grow up and you know who those guys are, but when you get around them, they're a lot different in person than they are on TV. I've become pretty good friends with Phil, and I still am really good friends with him through the work we've done."

So what goes into designing a golf course? Well, let Schrock explain.

"We design everything. We do the whole thing," he began. "There's a lot to it when you do the design work. An owner of land will come to you and say, 'I want an 18-hole golf course, can I build it on this?' And then you get into all sorts of things. Do you want homes on it? A clubhouse? Without homes you're going to need at least 140 acres to build - and that's land that you can actually build on. You've got to have water rights; all sorts of things go into it. Usually here in the States it takes about 10 years from start to finish and three or four years of that is just planning."

Other things to take into consideration?

"You've got to watch the birds, the trees, the wind, where the sun sets - you don't want the sun in your eyes on the 18th hole," Schrock continued. "Then, when you finally get the design out of it, there's been times when we've designed a golf course six or seven times and the owner doesn't like it or he doesn't like one of the holes. Most of the designed golf courses on paper are never actually built. 

"A building, that usually goes as planned, but a golf course is always changing."

Always changing and evolving, it's a challenging job, but one that Schrock said he, "wouldn't trade for anything in the world," and may not have had the opportunity to pursue if not for his time at K-State.

"I took a lot from my time at K-State, the people, mainly," said Schrock. "K-State, it's so fun to go back. I hadn't been to Manhattan in over 25 years, so when I go back now, it's phenomenal. Our football program when I was there, you could walk into the games, you didn't even pay. Now, with the ambiance K-State - the campus has changed so much - it makes you feel proud to wear purple and to be a part of that."

A world traveler, nothing makes Schrock happier when he is working abroad then seeing a fellow K-Stater.

"Even when I'm overseas, I see K-State over in China, and that's pretty amazing," he said. "You see it over there. You'll see a K-State sweatshirt, and that's really neat. It's not even just USA, it's K-State, so that brings you down home and that's the fun part about having that connection - it's been really fun to see it."

Finally, as for his favorite courses, Schrock didn't blink an eye.

"I love Pebble Beach, just the serene nature of it, and Augusta National is beautiful too," he said; both are courses he has enjoyed playing on. "It's just phenomenal knowing that those courses were built so long ago and they did them with natural terrain."

Though he may not be competing at the level he did during his Wildcat days, Schrock has not lost his swing. At the 2014 Northwest Kansas Catbacker Club Golf Tournament, Schrock and his team placed first with an exceptional 16-under par finish.  

He laughed when asked about his day on Meadow Lake Golf Course, and took no credit for the No. 1 finish, "my teammates played really well today." 

Next up for Schrock is a trip to Seoul, South Korea, where he said he is ready to take on his next challenge: "54 holes that need to be built."

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After shooting 15-under par for a No. 1 finish, Chris Albers, Terri Albers, Kevin Shaw and Ty Schrock pose with Willie Wildcat at the Northwest Catbacker Club Golf Tournament on May 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Ty Schrock)