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New England couple falls in love with UNF

Four years ago, Clark and Jan Lindley didn’t even know the University of North Florida existed. Today, they are two of UNF’s biggest fans who are also enthusiastic supporters of the University’s newest sport — women’s golf.

In the process, they are illustrating how The Power of Transformation campaign is changing the lives of students.

The Lindleys own and operate StoneField Bison Ranch, a small buffalo breeding operation in New Hampshire, as well as several insurance companies.

About five years ago, Clark introduced his wife to the game of golf while they were on a vacation to Ponte Vedra Beach. The couple played at the Sawgrass Country Club. The following year, the snowbirds returned to the area, and Clark participated in the pro-am practice round of the John Hayt Golf Tournament hosted at Sawgrass.

“We were impressed with the professionalism and demeanor of the UNF students on the men’s golf team” he said. “That piqued our interest in the University.”

Men’s Golf coach Scott Schroeder made arrangements for the Lindleys to visit UNF.

In the intervening years, they became more and more familiar with UNF, and they were impressed with what they saw. During a campus tour, they became aware of the University’s plan to launch a NCAA Division I women’s golf program in the 2012-2013 season.

“We’ve always been interested in getting involved in the early stages of new programs,” Clark said. “In this case, we fell in love with the University and the students.”

The love affair went deeper than just the golf program or even Athletics. Jan explained they immediately noticed a difference on the UNF campus.

“It was a combination of factors,” she said. “The campus was attractive and free of graffiti, and we really enjoyed the interaction with students. The students greeted us warmly, and there was a sense of hospitality. We are alumni of four different colleges, and we found ourselves deciding to support UNF.”

The Lindleys were so enthusiastic, they decided to begin a scholarship for the golf team with a special emphasis on endeavoring to bring students from the New England area to play golf at UNF.

With out-of-state tuition rates significantly higher, Joanne Steele, the coach of UNF’s new women’s golf team, is very appreciative of the assistance. Steele has been actively involved in recruiting players for the first team, which begins tournament competition this fall. Steele has already recruited her first class of six students-athletes who she’ll lead into the inaugural season.

“Whenever you are starting a new Division I team, it is essential to have a core of strong supporters who can help with the myriad of expenses,” Steele said. “The Lindleys are among the earliest supporters of our team. Their financial assistance is greatly appreciated.”

Although the Lindleys’ donation of $20,000 is primarily for scholarships, the gift gives UNF Athletics the opportunity to reallocate other funds for a campus renovation project. Specifically, two rooms in the Hayt Golf Learning Center, which had been used for biology projects, are being renovated for a locker room and meeting room for the women’s team. The biology lab has since moved to the new Biological Sciences Building, and the locker room will be completed in time for the start of the new golf season this fall.

The Lindleys are also lending their support to the women’s golf program while wintering in Florida. They have met with several community leaders who share their interest in developing the program as well as a few LPGA Tour participants.

"We believe in strong academic standards,” Clark said, “and UNF students exhibit the strong traditional values we believe in. We also know that golf is a wonderful way to round out a college education so these young people can be good stewards for the future of our country.”