Champion Volunteers Of Crooked Stick

By Richard Mudry
July 27, 2009
From left to right: Joe and Marcia Luigs and former USGA President Trey Holland all have Indiana ties. (USGA Archives)

Longtime club members Joe and Marcia Luigs have an unrivaled record of service to Crooked Stick, Indiana golf and the USGA.

Ask anyone familiar with Joe and Marcia Luigs and you'll be told the Carmel, Ind., couple is kind, generous and caring.

But in the next breath, they'll also tell you that in a small way, the longtime United States Golf Association volunteers are a conundrum.

They'll tell you that the two are diametrical opposites, which is a bit hard to fathom when you're talking about a couple who has devoted so much of their life together volunteering at more than 250 USGA-related events during the last 25 years – from junior championships to U.S. Opens and everything in between – as well as raising money to send junior girls from Indiana to USGA national championships.

"They are total opposites," said former USGA President Trey Holland III, an Indiana resident and longtime friend of the Luigs. "But they both share a love of the game and a love of family."

How opposite?

He shoots from the lip, speaking his mind; she is coolly analytical and introspective, choosing her words carefully.

He likes spending most of the off-season in Indiana; she likes to winter at their second home in Vero Beach, Fla.

He relishes a glass of good scotch; Tab is her drink of choice.

He majored in English and theology in college; she studied Russian and quantum physics.

Despite all that, the Crooked Stick Golf Club members have made their marriage work for 44 years, and a large parcel of that time has been spent traveling the state, country and world, giving back to the game.

It was a natural process, one which evolved from a family that plays golf to one that administers it at the highest levels.

"There are a lot of areas of satisfaction," said Marcia, 64.

"We got into this right after our daughter, Lisa, finished [competing] in several USGA championships," said Marcia. "I thought it would be neat to become involved. She had such great experiences; it was my pleasure to do that for other kids coming along. What I've received from those years is an entire group of friends, not only in the United States, but throughout the world."

The Luigs have two daughters, Lisa Luigs Morrissett of Kohler, Wis., and Amy Luigs of Indianapolis. Lisa continues to play golf. Amy had a brief flirtation with the game at age 10 when she won a nine-hole girls' championship at Crooked Stick, then retired from the game undefeated.

Those times playing golf, said Lisa, were lessons learned for later in life.

"Probably when I was growing up and was playing the last of the three U.S. Girls' Junior Championships, at Mill Creek in Seattle [1984]," said Lisa of one lasting memory. "I remember a van full of girls, an Indianapolis crew, driving out to Washington.

"I remember my parents not only being my cheerleaders, but also a cheerleader for any of the other girls we brought with us or anyone we were playing," she continued. "They were always supportive of my game and the game of others."

Lisa said her parents were so popular that, "if I showed up and my parents weren't there, everyone wanted to know where they were.

"Now that I have a daughter of my own, I appreciate their attention even more and how they had respect for everyone," she said.

Joe, 66, likes the challenges that conducting local and sectional qualifying events for USGA national championships present, everything from taking entries to arranging tee times to setting up the golf courses.

So does Marcia. So they share duties – sort of.

"We do work together," said Joe. "If it's her qualifier, she is the boss. If it's my qualifier, she is the boss. If it is a USGA national championship, the USGA is the boss."

The importance of the qualifier does not matter one iota to her parents, said Lisa, just the quality of the work they put into it.

"They saw championships being run the right way," said Lisa, thinking back to their introduction to USGA championships at the Girls' Juniors, "and they wanted to give that same [high standard] to others.

"They have a great pride in producing a quality championship. It didn't matter whether it was a 15-year-old in the Girls' Junior, a mom like me trying to qualify for an event, or a professional trying to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open. They wanted their qualifiers to be quality ones."

The owner of an insurance company, Joe's the hands-on guy and a single-digit handicapper who has played the game since he was 10 years old. The Luigs have been members at Crooked Stick for 30 years and live in a home along the first hole. Marcia, now a 15-handicapper after 14 wrist operations, is a two-time club champion.

"It's easy for me to do things people say can't be done," said Joe, who's served as the official in charge at some 70 USGA qualifiers and as a Rules official or committee chair at dozens of USGA national championships. "That's my satisfaction."

"Joe is absolutely invaluable to the USGA and Indiana Golf Association," said Tom Meeks, former USGA senior director of Rules and Competitions.

"Joe has had, at least in his own mind, the best interest of the organization when he's made decisions," said Holland, who will join the Luigs at the U.S. Senior Open at Crooked Stick as Rules officials.

"He's a perfectionist. He's got a very practical way of looking at problems as they relate to the game and how it should be played and run. Without a doubt he is one of the longest-serving USGA officials."

Marcia's golf resume is, if anything, more extensive, having served as chairman of the USGA Women's Committee in 2005-2006.

"Marcia has reached the pinnacle of women's golf in the USGA," said Meeks. "She's highly respected by all. Golf today in Indiana, when it comes to USGA events, would not be anywhere near the level it is at without Joe and Marcia. They are the ultimate volunteers."

"I don't know of anybody who has ever supported USGA golf more than Marcia," said former USGA President Judy Bell, who has known the Luigs since the early 1970s. "She's very generous with her time. If anything needs to happen, Marcia will make it happen."

When the Luigs were inducted into the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame in November 2003 in Carmel, Holland and Bell introduced the pair.

Holland was spell-binding, telling Joe Luigs stories, some of them touching, some of them ribald. Holland's far-ranging introduction showed the familiarity and respect the two have for each other.

Joe returned the favor in 2007. In the middle of his speech about his friend, he stopped and allowed Marcia to present Holland with a tiny crane in front of the assembled audience of family and friends, a friendly jab at the 1994 U.S. Open ruling Holland gave eventual U.S. Open champion Ernie Els at Oakmont Country Club.

Bell was a gentler speaker, talking at length about Marcia's early childhood as a military brat, who then grew up in Crawfordsville, Ind., as the daughter of the town's physician after her dad left the U.S. Army. Marcia didn't pick up a golf club until she was 25 years old.

"That evening was great fun," said Marcia. "We didn't want it to be a serious type of evening. That's not in our nature. I was thankful to have Judy there and a lot of friends and family."

How did this wonderful journey begin for the Luigs?

The two met at Hanover College in southern Indiana. Joe, then a junior from Evansville, was washing dishes in the Alpha Delta Pi sorority house when he met Marcia Burks.

A spark ensued between the two and they were married a year later.

"My mom said it would never last," said Marcia, laughing.

"I do not recall Marcia's mom's comments," said Joe all these years later.

How wrong her mother was.

Looking back, said the Luigs, what a wonderful life USGA volunteering has given them. Those memories will last forever.

Richard Mudry is a freelance golf writer based in Tampa, Fla. This article originally appeared in the official program for the 2009 U.S. Senior Open Championship, published by Golfweek Custom Media.

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