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Teeing off with Melea: A former All-American, pro golf competitor, takes reins at hometown Lake Creek links

Thursday, January 3, 2002

At the beginning of the spring of her freshman year at Storm Lake High School, Melea Mullally had to make a decision between going out for the girls' track team or signing up for girls' golf.

She thought golf sounded fun, and wondered if she could improve on a game she did not yet know much about.

However, Melea's two older sisters had done well competing on the Tornado track team, and many assumed Melea would continue the family tradition of racing down marked lanes rather than driving golf balls down grassy fareways.

In the end, she opted to wear her spikes on the golf course instead of on the track, and, 14 years later, the decision has proven to be a wise one.

Now 29 and Melea Raveling, she is the new director of golf at Lake Creek Country Club, located on Highway 7 between Storm Lake and Alta, and will be in charge of virtually all of the operations at the course, including organizing various golf outing and tournaments, running the clubhouse and pro shop, providing lessons for people and handling the bookkeeping duties for Lake Creek.

A former player on three professional mini-tours, the Ronald McDonald Sunshine Tour, Central Florida Challenge Tour and Futures Tour, Raveling holds the Briar Cliff College and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) record for lowest 18-hole score with a round of 70, and was a three-time All-American at the college, and was the NAIA individual champion her senior year as a member of the Charger team.

Raveling, a 1991 graduate of SLHS, still lives in her hometown, and said the new job at Lake Creek was simply an opportunity she could not pass up.

"I'm really excited to be here at Lake Creek," Raveling, married to Jason, an accountant, said. "This is easily the best course within a 60-mile radius, and it seemed like the timing was good for me to accept the job. I'm really looking forward to being here."

It's a trip back home for Raveling, who excelled on the golf course for Storm Lake, as she was the conference medalist her junior and senior year for SLHS, and also made the trip to the state tournament both of those years, finishing sixth and fourth, respectively.

Recruited to Briar Cliff by then-coach Lila Frommelt, Raveling was up and down her first year at the school, but then exploded onto the national golf scene during here sophomore year, when she shot a blistering round of 70 at Green Valley, S.C., and entered her first Individual Nationals ranked number one, eventually finishing third.

A favorite to win the individual title her junior year, Raveling missed a tap-in putt on the final hole to lose by one stroke, but atoned for the loss her senior season, when she won the NAIA championship by over 20 strokes.

In addition to her NAIA title, Raveling won medalist honors 22 times at BC, made 47 of 56 all-tournament teams and finished fifth and seventh at the inaugural NAIA Women's Golf Championship her senior year.

After graduating from Briar Cliff in 1995 with a major in human resource management and a double minor in business and recreational leisure, Raveling decided to turn profession, yearning to spend her days reading putts as a pro on the course rather than reading financial spreadsheets as an employee of a pro shop.

"I just didn't want to give up playing golf at that point," Raveling said. "I realized at that time that I couldn't dedicate all of the time that you need to dedicate in a job like the one I have now, because there's a lot of time involved with bookkeeping, organizing, tournaments, running the pro shop and so on. I wanted to still play, and turning professional allowed me to do that."

However, Raveling quickly learned the life of a professional golf was not all it was cracked up to be, particularly on mini-tours such as the Futures and Sunshine tours, which stretched the pockets of the participants very thin with a combination of high expenses and low payouts.

"It costs a lot of money to be on the tour," Raveling said. "Most of the entry fees are at least $350, and then when you factor in the food, the lodging, the transportation to and from each event and other expenses that come into play, it doesn't take long before that figure adds up."

Raveling said the solitary life on the tour was also difficult to handle, as she had always been able to compete with friends at both Storm Lake and Briar Cliff. As a professional, she was by herself, driving along Florida highways from Orlando to Lakeland to Winter Haven to pick up small paychecks every week.

"It's very lonely on those tours," Raveling said. "I really felt alone, because to be honest, the other people on the tour couldn't care less about what you're doing. Before, like in high school and college, I had always had someone there to be there for me and to help me with what I was doing, but on the tours, that person wasn't there.

"It was lonely traveling to different tournaments every week, and that's something many people don't realize about those smaller tours," Raveling said. "It might look like a glamorous life, but you're all by yourself, and that makes it difficult."

While she was chipping for birdies in Florida, however, Raveling was beginning to start on her career as a golf instructor.

While competing on the professional circuit during her winters, Raveling would come back to Iowa during her summers to work at Brooks Country Club in Okoboji, and it was there she first realized a career as a golf coach and instructor was a possibility.

Under the tutelage of nationally-recognized coaches J.D. Turner and Brian Conser, Raveling learned how to spot and correct mistakes in her swing, and the different theories about the science of golf she absorbed at Brooks helped prepare her for helping to spot and correct mistakes in the swings of others.

After a year at Dakota Dunes Country Club in Dakota Dunes, S.D., Raveling was hired as the new women's golf coach at her alma mater four years ago, and immediately made an impact on the Charger women.

A three-time Women's Regional Coach of the Year, Raveling has directed the women to four consecutive national tournaments, and the team is currently ranked eighth in the nation in the NAIA.

She then took over the helm of the men's squad last year, and started to rebuild the men's program with the goal of having the men's squad mirror the success of the women's team.

Raveling said she has enjoyed coaching both teams, and said the addition of overseeing the men's squad has helped her adjust her coaching styles to fit the needs of the individual golfers and teams.

"It's totally different coaching men and women," Raveling said. "On the course both of the teams have the same desire to win, but their approaches to practicing are very different. The women are very, very disciplined. If I tell the girls to go out and practice hitting chip shots for two hours, they'll chip for two hours.

"The guys, though, are more laid back and they just want to play," Raveling continued. "If I would tell them to chip for two hours, they would chip for maybe an hour and then go out and play. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's just a totally different style to how they approach it, and you have to coach them knowing those differences are there."

The level of caring for each individual on her team does not change from men to women, however, and she said that overt concern she shows to each BC golfer has helped the teams be successful by instilling a strong bond between the players and their coach.

"I'm a coach that's very close to my players," Raveling said. "When you're a coach, you're not just a coach, but you're a mentor, a parent, a role model. It's more than just telling them how to hit a good chip shot, but it's being there for them and caring about them as a person, not just as a Briar Cliff golfer."

Now, Raveling will attempt to convey her passion for golf to members of the 6,813-yard Lake Creek club, and hopes new special rates at the course will help increase the size and scope of that audience.

Any new member in 2002 can purchase a family pass at the course for $600, and the single rate is $400 a year. Those living outside a 15-mile radius will be able to join the club for $350, and Raveling said there is also a guarantee that there will be no assessment fees in the new year.

In addition, Lake Creek is also selling stocks to members of the community for the first time this year, and interested individuals will be able to talk to Mike Wilbur (732-4801) for more information about the offer.

Raveling will begin learning more about her new job at a board meeting next Monday, and the former Tornado who almost chose to run laps rather than swing 4-irons is looking forward to the newest challenge in her life.

"I'm very excited for this place," Raveling said. "This is something I knew I've always wanted to do, and I feel very fortunate to be here. I want to help people play better golf, and this job here at Lake Creek is definitely going to allow me to do that."



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