TEMPLE TERRACE - Jim Garrison was relatively new to golf when he graduated from the University of South Florida. Golf was a hobby, a way to goof around while studying a little less than maybe he should have.
He went to USF to study mechanical engineering with the idea of using his degree to work in the field of thermodynamics.
"Golf just won out over science,'' said Garrison, who has been the head professional at Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club for 17 years. He started as an assistant at a local par-3 and jumped at the chance to come to one of the most historic courses in Florida to teach and hone his game.
He never took the leap of faith known in the golf world as Q-School, but he played all the minitours and was named North Florida Section Player of the Year in 2005 and won several other awards along the way. He has teed it up at the former Chrysler Championship at Innisbrook and also played in the season-ending event at Walt Disney World.
Teeing it up with the big boys was fun, and Garrison hasn't let go of the dream quite yet. At 45 he is facing the same dilemma faced by most golfers around that age since the advent of the Champions Tour, a PGA Tour for players who have reached their 50th birthday.
Garrison is convinced he can give it a shot. The window on the Champions Tour is quite small. It's rare to see anyone over 55 win an event, and much of it is ceremonial golf. But Garrison said it's in the back of his mind.
Also in the back of his mind are some pretty fair golfers still playing the regular tour who will be reaching 50 around the same time.
For now Garrison is happy at Temple Terrace. The club is technically the second oldest golf club in Florida, one year younger than Palma Ceia Golf Club.
But Palma Ceia has gone through plenty of changes since its opening back in 1921. Temple Terrace has barely changed a bit. It plays fairly short at 6,500 yards from the tips, but the fairways are extremely tight and any wayward tee shot is likely to cause a punchout back into the fairway. Many golfers have left with dirty knees from kneeling below branches to get the ball back into play.
Garrison loves being in Florida and said he could stay at Temple Terrace forever, but he is a bit disturbed by what Florida golf has become.
In the 1980s, when the construction boom really hit Florida hard, the concept seemed easy. Just build a community of cookie-cutter homes and surround it with a cookie-cutter golf course. In the eight-county Tampa Bay region, at last count there were 308 golf courses. Many of them wind through communities. Errant tee shots don't go into the trees, they go onto people's lawns. They might get a great lie out of it, but those pesky out-of-bounds markers usually get in the way.
"People are tired of playing the same types of courses all the time," Garrison said. "The Florida building boom was great. We built so many courses so fast, and they all look the same.
"We aren't the most scenic course, but no one can beat us for history," he continued. "Babe Ruth played here. Big Jim Barnes won 21 times, including the four majors at the time when the Western Open was a major before the advent of the Masters. Barnes, with all of the success and his ability to take on the greats like Walter Hagan and Gene Sarazan, was the first golf professional at Temple Terrace."
Temple Terrace Golf Club is at 200 Inverness Ave. in Temple Terrace. Visit the website at www.templeterracegolf.