Feature of The Month ►
Randy Towner —
From Sand Greens to Augusta and Beyond
Midwest PGA Section President has played an estimated 60 of 100 top golf courses .
by Alan Hoskins , Feature Writer
From sand greens to Augusta National , Pebble Beach , and the
Old Course at Saint Andrews , it ’ s been a storied career for Randy Towner .
In his 42nd year in the business , golf has taken Towner pretty much around the world and on the course playing encounters with the likes of such diverse personalities as NBA legend Michael Jordan , vocalists Johnny Mathis and Alice Cooper , and world-renown dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov .
“ I ’ ve got to do a lot of things in my life because of golf ,” says Towner , ( photo below ) who is in his 11th year as general manager and head professional at Firekeeper Golf Course in Mayetta about 15 miles north of Topeka — one of Kansas ’ premier golf courses . Towner has also worked at such prestigious courses as Alvamar , Wolf Creek , and St . Andrews — all several levels above the sand greens of years past .
Firekeeper Golf Course
“ I played a number of years before I ever played on anything but sand greens ,” remembers Towner , who started playing at about the age of three . “ My dad [ John ] loved golf , and we played on a 9-hole sand green course just off K-7 past Bonner Springs . I think they called it something like the Kansas City teachers course . My dad , who is now 92 and still playing golf , and the dad of Jay Lispi [ longtime head professional at Tomahawk ] were good friends , so Jay and I played a lot on sand greens . Then the dads joined Dub ’ s Dread , and we played a lot there and then joined Lake Quivira Country Club .”
Towner lived in DeSoto until sixth grade when the family moved to Shawnee . He attended Shawnee Mission North High School his sophomore year , then transferred to Shawnee Mission Northwest when it opened . “ We went to the state tournament at North , which was cool ,” says Towner . “ And then I won the Sunflower League championship at Victory Hills when I was a senior . It was really neat at Northwest because we had all the good golfers from Lake Quivira , and we were terrible at all the other sports being a new school , so being a golfer was awesome .”
Graduating from Shawnee Mission Northwest in 1971 , Towner spent two years at Johnson County Community College ( JCCC ), where he helped the Cavaliers qualify for the NJCAA national tournament both years , earned NJCAA All-American honors , and now is a member of the JCCC Hall of Fame . While at JCCC , he also worked at St . Andrews , a part-time position that started him on his professional career . An assistant three years , he built professional relationships with such Kansas City legends as Stan Thirsk , Everett Van Zant , Carl Pugh , Duke Gibson , and Buster Mills . In his first pro event , Towner defeated ( Kansas City Golf Hall of Famer ) Bob Stone in a playoff .
He joined John Bonella at Wolf Creek for two years , returned to St . Andrews for three years , and he then got his first job as head professional at Meadowbrook Country Club . After four years there , he began a 22-year career at Alvamar in Lawrence — and a lifechanging relationship with another newcomer to Lawrence .
▲ Assistants Mike Powell ( left ) and Tarell Ramsey ( right ) make up two-thirds of Randy Towner ’ s ( center ) golf staff at Firekeeper Golf Course . Former Kansas State golfer Jane Yi ( not in photo ) is the third member of the staff .
“ It was late 1988 or early 1989 , and I came into my office , and there was a note that said , ‘ Sorry I missed you . My name is Roy Williams , and I ’ m the new basketball coach at KU , and I love golf .’ So , I went to the KU basketball office and left a note that said , ‘ Sorry I missed you . I ’ m Randy Towner . I ’ m the new golf pro at Alvamar , and I love basketball .’”
16 December 2020 TEE TIMES GOLF GUIDE