Warwick grad has links to the U.S. Women’s Open

By on June 3, 2015


Jim Nagle (right), a 1987 Warwick grad and an employee of Forse Design, is the lead golf architect in charge of the changes, renovations and planning at the Lancaster Country Club, which is hosting the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open Championships in July.

Jim Nagle (right), a 1987 Warwick grad and an employee of Forse Design, is the lead golf architect in charge of the changes, renovations and planning at the Lancaster Country Club, which is hosting the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open Championships in July.

Nearly three decades later, Jim Nagle still vividly recalls a tour that he had of the Derck and Edson offices in downtown Lititz.

It was there, in the summer of 1986, that his career path began to take shape.

“I thought I might have an interest in architecture, it was just something in the back of my mind,” Nagle recalled. “I’d just turned 17 years old, I wasn’t 100 percent sure, and as I was going through the office, they were working on a golf course design. It was on one of the tables and I looked at it and said, ‘Mr. Derck, what’s this?’ He said, ‘Well, we’re working on a nine-hole design.’ It might have been over at Willow Valley.”

Today, having earned a degree in landscape architecture from West Virginia University, the 1987 Warwick High School graduate is working for a small firm, Forse Design, located about an hour south of Pittsburgh. The business specializes in restoring and renovating golf courses, specifically those built in the classic era spanning the years roughly between 1910 and post-World War II.

“We have a lot of projects just in the Lancaster, Lebanon, Reading, Allentown, especially the Philadelphia area, where there’s just a high concentration of classic courses,” Nagle said.

One of those courses happens to be the Lancaster Country Club, which is preparing to host the 2015 USGA Women’s Open Championship from July 6-12. In fact, for the past 12 years, Nagle has been the lead golf architect in charge of the changes, renovations and planning at the LCC.

In his professional career, Nagle and Forse Design have been involved with projects that have hosted USGA Major events. They’ve had clients who have held Senior Opens, Women’s Opens, Women’s Amateurs, Junior Amateurs and the like.

Nagle, however, acknowledges that seeing the Lancaster Country Club host this year’s Women’s Open Championship &tstr; the first major championship to be held in Lancaster County and central Pennsylvania &tstr; is special.

“Personally for me, this is the first one that I’ve been involved with in the 17 years that I’ve been with (Forse Design) that I’ve had such an intimate knowledge and hand in what’s going on,” said Nagle, who plans to attend the event with his family from Friday through Sunday, July 10-12. “Plus, it’s in my hometown. I had an interview (with LNP’s) Mike Gross and I said, ‘In all honesty, when your mom can pick up the newspaper and see her son involved in something like this, it gives it a special feel about it’ … Plus, when you get to work on a course like (LCC), there’s a nice feeling to know that you’ve grown as an architect and have the opportunity, the blessing to work on a place like this.”

Certainly, he has come a long way since his freshman year at Warwick when he played his one, and only, season with the Warriors’ golf team.

“It was ugly,” Nagle laughed.

He also played on the Warwick boys basketball team during the Dave Althouse/Jack Hurd era.

But in his current position, Nagle has found his expertise.

“That’s a misconception,” said Nagle, who still has a lot of family members living in the region. “There are designers who just love the game. They’re not the Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw-level players, and I certainly fall into that category.”

Nagle also credits local firm D&E for a lot of his success over the years. He worked there in the summer of 1986 and later began his professional career there.

“To this day,” he said, “we at Forse Design utilize D&E for various services which we as a small firm do not offer. That continues a nearly 30-year relationship with D&E.”

It was in 2005 when Nagle and Ron Forse while working with newly-hired LCC superintendent Todd Bidlespacher began to leave their hand print on the Lancaster Country Club course, rebuilding not only the 12th and 13th greens, but the bunkers there and at the 17th green. Not long afterward, Nagle had a hand in reconstructing all the bunkers on the Flynn course &tstr; the 18 holes where the Women’s Open Championship will be played.

Since that time, the Lititz native estimates that he has been to the LCC about once a year to address some minor details such as dealing with tree management and redesigning tees. In 2013, Forse Design tackled a big project in which they built a new practice facility with a short game area and putting green.

Nagle is quick to point out that none of the Forse Design improvements have been done with an eye toward the Women’s Open Championship.

“It’s always been about the members first,” he said. “It may have accelerated a project or two with the practice facilities, but ultimately, everything has been done for the members. I think that’s one thing people need to understand. The course itself is just so good that what the members get to play day in and day out is of a quality that can host a tournament like this. Nationally, it is known as a very, very good golf course.”

Clearly, author Tom Doak has no arguments with that statement. In his book, “The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses,” Doak chose the Lancaster Country Club as one of his gourmet choices.

“I said, ‘Tom, why would you choose Lancaster over some of the Philadelphia-area golf courses that William Flynn designed?,’” Nagle recalls. “He said that it encompasses and includes so many elements that you find on good golf courses. They’re all built into Lancaster.”

As Nagle describes, there are three elements that factor into a good golf course design &tstr; strategy, naturalness and variety. The Lancaster Country Club, with the Conestoga River and Stauffer Run ambling through the course and varying lengths of holes which include uphill and downhill sections, contains all of them.

“The course has great strategy,” he said. “Strategy would be how a player attacks the course and you really have to pick and choose the way you’re going to play the course to score well.”

Members of the USGA have repeatedly remarked that the Lancaster Country Club course is ready and in shape to play a tournament today. With all these positives surround the LCC, it’s not a stretch to say that there are people surprised that Lancaster has never previously hosted a major championship.

“All things coming together now, I think this is the perfect time for them to do it,” Nagle said. “Maybe in the past, there were some things that needed to be worked on with the course. And I think now they’re in the best position to do so, and more importantly, to see what people are going to see on TV. It’s just in such great shape, the membership has done such a good job getting behind all the changes, and the superintendent and his staff have just done an incredible job on that golf course.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *