A tee-rific night for alumni

On Feb. 28, the fifth annual 9 in the Spine event teed off in Rasmuson Hall. Hosted by Alumni Relations, the Alumni ParTee is an indoor mini golf event, stretching across the Spine of the university from Rasmuson Hall to Kaladi Brothers in the Social Science Building.

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Student clubs are charged with creating the course for the annual Alumni ParTee, which serves as a fundraiser for Alumni Relations and the UAA Alumni Scholarship Endowment Fund. Photo credit: Joey Besl

Jayson Smart, a UAA alumnus, came up with the idea for this event during his time working in the Student Union in the 1990s. He said he was inspired by the connectedness of UAA’s campus.

“Every day I walked through the halls of the university, and I got to thinking about how a lot of the buildings are connected and you can go so far without stepping foot outside,” Smart said. “I thought it would be interesting if you could do some kind of putt-putt golf through the campus buildings. It seemed like a goofy idea, but it was in the back of my mind for some period of time.”

In 2014, 9 in the Spine turned into more than just an idea, and has been a Winterfest tradition ever since.

The course that stretched across the spine was occupied by two nine-hole sections, 18 holes in total. Each hole was uniquely designed by a student club. This year, clubs and activities including the Accounting Club, Seawolf Cadet Club, KRUA 88.1 FM, the Physics and Astronomy Club and Greek life demonstrated their creativity by creating a piece of the course.

Many clubs participate from year to year, either improving upon their previous hole or designing a new one altogether. Once the courses are completed, participating teams vote on the best design of the night. The Management and Marketing Club, winner of best hole in 2015, created a new hole design for this year’s event.

According to Ryan Horn, club president, designing their hole created an opportunity to bring the club even closer together.

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“I made it a point to have as many club members as possible participate in the construction of our hole, so it was a bonding experience. That’s one of the social and camaraderie pieces [of the event],” Horn said.

The golf teams of the Alumni ParTee are formed by four employees of companies with strong ties to UAA, whether they are owned by an alumni or have a number of alumni employees.

9 in the Spine creates a unique opportunity for alumni to return to campus. The event is also designed to be low-cost in order to encourage as much participation as possible.

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Phi Kappa Theta is one of several Greek organizations that participate in the annual 9 in the Spine event. Photo credit: Joey Besl

“Having an event where you actually walk a long distance on campus is a way [for alumni] to see the different things that are going on, and the new and updated buildings,” Smart said. “This event is a way of coming back and getting involved.”

A couple years into the event, 9 in the Spine was taken to the next level when Alumni Relations began pairing up clubs with the participating businesses, trying to match interests. Each club chooses one student representative to golf with the alumni, creating teams of five. This allows for current students to connect with alumni and other professionals in their field.

“When I joined Leadership Fellows, my mentor was actually someone I golfed with. I now work side by side with that mentor that I initially met while golfing together,” Horn said. “Networking is huge, and the ability to create those connections with alumni is invaluable.”

Along with networking and club-bonding, 9 in the Spine is a fundraiser for Alumni Relations, with net proceeds supporting the UAA Alumni Scholarship Endowment Fund. The fund has grown substantially since its initial amount of $25 in 1985. It now offers $2,000 scholarships to four students from each of the university’s six colleges, a total of $48,000.

The Alumni ParTee offers many opportunities for current students and alumni alike.

“9 in the Spine is a networking opportunity for students, a fundraiser for scholarships and an opportunity for graduates to come back and see what’s new, and it’s all disguised as a fun night of cross-campus mini-golf,” Joey Besl, alumni communications specialist, said. “It’s an excellent event, and completely unique to UAA.”