A family with close to 40 years of support for Murray State University was recently recognized on September 14 for their continuous generosity. University officials and special guests attended a gift celebration at Frances E. Miller Memorial Golf Course to recognize a $1.15 million gift from the L.D. Miller Jr. trust. The gift will establish an endowment fund to generate annual funds in supporting maintenance and improvement as well as promotion and general support for the Frances E. Miller Memorial Golf Course.
“I think (the gift) will be a tremendous boost to the University,” said Dr. Tim Miller, former Murray State president and MSU Foundation executive director who, along with Stephen Sanders, served as trustees for the Miller gift. “L.D. was all about the students, and this gift will continue to provide more opportunities for students. I know that L.D. would be really pleased with that.”
L.D. Miller was a 1937 graduate of Murray State who grew up on a farm less than a mile north of nearby Coldwater. In 1979, Miller donated the family’s 175-acre Calloway County farm to the MSU Foundation with the stipulations that an 18-hole golf course be established within ten years and that the facility be named for his late wife, Frances Emerson Miller, a Mayfield native who was an avid golfer before passing away in 1976. Valued at approximately $200,000, the donation was the second-largest gift given to the University at the time.
Miller said at the time that he gave the land to Murray State because the school has “meant so much to the business and social life of Murray, Calloway County and this entire region. Basically, it is because of the University’s presence in this community that this expression of personal appreciation on my part has been made possible.”
The news of a newly constructed golf course brought an immediate sense of excitement to the community, particularly the University’s golf team, which practiced at the Murray Country Club for a fee. The nearest public courses for the team to use ranged from 20 to 35 miles from Murray near the Kentucky Lake area.
The course opened on Memorial Day weekend in 1983. Less than a year later, the American Society of Golf Course Architects selected the course as among the best-designed in the country, with “automatically watered Bermuda fairways and large bent-grass greens,” according to a news release. The society’s selections represented about one percent of the total 13,084 public and private golf courses at that time.
“L.D. was so proud of the course and always thankful to Billy Wagoner, head of the course at the time, as well as the people who worked so hard on the course,” said Stephen Sanders, friend of the Miller family and a trustee for the Miller gift.
Before passing away in 1992, Miller donated a clubhouse that was modeled after his own home and completed in 1990.
Situated six miles east of the Murray State campus on highway 280, the course is a par-71 layout that measures 6,592 yards from the championship tees and is the home course for the Murray State men’s and women’s golf teams. The facility also offers three large practice putting greens as well as a wide two-level practice tee and a spacious 315-yard driving range. The clubhouse currently hosts a variety of special events, banquets and meetings.
“L.D. Miller’s vision was to create an affordable place for Murray State students, faculty and staff, and surrounding area residents to play golf. Thanks to his lofty ambition, thousands of golfers annually get to enjoy a fantastic golf course with a truly unique design,” said Will Snodgrass, director of golf at Miller Memorial Golf Course. “I personally have enjoyed the privilege of both playing and now working at Miller Memorial Golf Course for over 20 years. I would like to think he’d be proud of the way we manage and maintain his most generous gift to this community.”