SPOTLIGHT: The M-Club's First Golf Initiate
Gene Van Cleve

April 3, 2012

By Nathan Booth
Graduate Assistant, Athletics Media Relations

In 1958 on the Ole Miss campus, a group of elite athletes known as the M-Club was meeting on campus.   It was a group consisting primarily of football, basketball, and baseball lettermen—some of the most celebrated athletes in the state.  

Into the room walked another athlete, Gene Van Cleve.  He was not another football star, nor was he a basketball or baseball player.  No, Van Cleve was a member of the golf team.  That was a rare sight for M-Club meetings, at the time—in fact, it was a first.  Van Cleve was seeking to become the first golfer ever to be initiated into the prestigious organization.

“Walking into a room with boys who played major sports was a little intimidating,” Van Cleve admits.  “I knew some probably didn’t want me there.  Those other boys had to work all day, putting in blood, sweat, and tears.  I think they kind of resented the minor sports.  I don't blame them a bit.  I probably would have been the same way.”  

As a boy growing up in the small Mississippi Delta town of Indianola, two things Van Cleve developed places in his heart for were golf and Ole Miss.

“I started golf at an early age—probably age eight,” recalls Van Cleve.  “It is just a game that I love.”

Spending numerous Saturdays on campus for football games as a boy, Van Cleve also developed a love for Ole Miss early in his life.  When the time came to select a college to attend in 1953, it was an easy decision.   

 “There was no other choice, really," says Van Cleve.

Van Cleve did not play on the golf team his freshman and sophomore years.  At the end of his sophomore year in 1955, he left school to join the military.  

Van Cleve served for two years as a member of the 38th AAA Missile Battalion in Norfolk, Va.—a part of the United States Defense System that helped fortify the East Coast during the Cold War.  

When he returned to Ole Miss, he looked to get back to the game he loved.  With three years of eligibility remaining, Van Cleve made the golf team, coached by the late Junie Hovious, and earned his first letter for the 1958 season.  

Upon receiving their letters, Van Cleve and his teammates were also given the option of joining the M-Club by Hovious.

An organization consisting almost exclusively of athletes from the major sports teams, the M-Club seemed like no place for a 165-pound golfer.  Members of the golf team had received letters before, but never had one been initiated into the M-Club.

Nervously, Van Cleve accepted the offer—the only one on his team to do so.  He knew the road to initiation would be a rough one.

“Sometimes, I kind of felt a little guilty because I was out there playing and having fun,” he jokes.  “But I was asked to join.  I worked hard.  I had a letter in a sport—just like them.  It was just a different kind of sport.”  

Van Cleve recalled his initiation in the freezing January temperatures.  Initiation activities concluded with the new initiates running across campus covered in red and blue paint—only red and blue paint.

“Fortunately, it was two in the morning and nobody saw us,” Van Cleve laughed.

“I would do it all again,” he adds.  “I was treated the same as anyone else after the initiation, and had many friends in the M-Club.  It is a privilege to be a part of the M-Club with a university as great as Ole Miss.  I’ve always felt blessed to have been invited.”

He would prove himself worthy of being the first golfer initiated into the M-Club.  His career was highlighted by a senior season that saw the Rebels post an 8-3 mark with Van Cleve as their No. 1 player.  

“We beat Mississippi State twice,” notes Van Cleve.  “That was probably the highlight of the season for me.”  

After graduating with a degree in business administration, Van Cleve moved back to Indianola to work with his father at the family’s insurance agency.  Now 75 years-old, he still works there with his son.

Van Cleve continued to play golf after leaving Oxford, taking part in, and winning, his country club’s annual tournaments.  And don’t think that age has kept him from the links.  

“I can't shoot like I used to.  You lose your distance when you get old.  But I shot my age a couple of times this summer,” he noted.

Seeing an indoor practice facility under construction and a beautiful golf course that underwent $3.5 million renovations in 2008 at Ole Miss, Van Cleve can’t help but laugh at how the collegiate game has changed over the years.  

This season, the Ole Miss men’s golf team will play in the Carolinas and Florida.  The women’s team recently played in a tournament in Colorado.  

"We were lucky to get to go to Nashville, Starkville, or Memphis.” Van Cleve says.  “But it was a lot of fun.  We had some great times," he said.


 

 

  • 10/01/2015 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    New Ole Miss Letterwinner Walk to be Named...

    In honor of his incredible legacy and contributions to Ole Miss Athletics, Rebel great Jake Gibbs' name will be permanently attached to the new Letterwinner Walk that will be unveiled next fall. Read More [+]

    09/22/2015 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Five Rebel Greats To Be Enshrined in M-Clu...

    The Ole Miss M-Club Alumni Hall of Fame will get a little more prestigious this weekend. Five Rebel greats, representing four different sports, will be welcomed to the Hall of Fame at a ceremony... Read More [+]

    08/31/2015 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Ole Miss Announces Letterwinner Walk Project

    Ole Miss Athletics will add the Letterwinner Walk to its new plaza outside the north end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium next fall, Athletics Director Ross Bjork announced Monday. Read More [+]

    04/07/2015 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Regions Bank Grove Bowl Week is Here

    Ole Miss Athletics is looking forward to a big weekend, headlined by the Regions Bank Grove Bowl that kicks off at noon CT on Saturday and is free to the public. Ole Miss Softball hosts Georgia for... Read More [+]

    09/27/2014 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    2014 Ole Miss M-Club Hall of Fame Class

    Six outstanding individuals were honored with their induction into the M-Club Hall of Fame on Sept. 26. The 2014 class is headlined by the late Chucky Mullins, whose life and influenced is being... Read More [+]

    09/05/2014 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Special Group To Join Ole Miss M-Club Hall...

    Six outstanding individuals that helped forge the success that Ole Miss Athletics enjoys today, will be honored with induction into the Ole Miss M-Club Hall of Fame this fall. Read More [+]

    08/01/2014 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Celebration of Chucky Mullins Set for Ole ...

    The life and influence of Chucky Mullins will be celebrated during the Ole Miss-Memphis football game weekend (Sept. 27) as part of the M-Club Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on campus. Read More [+]

    04/02/2014 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Regions Bank Grove Bowl Highlights Busy...

    Ole Miss Athletics is looking forward to a big weekend, headlined by the Regions Bank Grove Bowl that kicks off at noon CT on Saturday and is free to the public. Rebel Baseball and a free Nelly... Read More [+]

    11/21/2013 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Ole Miss Chapter To Honor Van Devenders...

    The Ole Miss Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame will honor Billy and Mollie Van Devender of Jackson, Miss., with its Distinguished American Award and Jesse... Read More [+]

    10/23/2013 - M Club Athletic Alumni

    Ole Miss Inducts Five To M-Club Hall Of Fame

    This past weekend, the Ole Miss M-Club Association honored a group of six outstanding individuals, five with induction into the M-Club Hall of Fame and one with the Lotterhos Service Award. Read More [+]

    • A Closer Look: Linebackers

      Wednesday, January 17, 2018 - Football

      This is the seventh of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018. Top Performer: DeMarquis Gates (112 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 TFL) Returning... read more

    • A Closer Look: Defensive Line

      Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - Football

      This is the sixth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018. Top Performer: Breeland Speaks (27 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 67... read more

    • A Closer Look: Offensive Line

      Monday, January 15, 2018 - Football

      This is the fifth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018. Returning in 2018: Greg Little (Jr., 2L), Sean Rawlings (Sr., 3L),... read more

    • A Closer Look: Tight Ends

      Thursday, January 11, 2018 - Football

      This is the fourth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018. Top Performer: Dawson Knox (10 catches, 324 yards) Returning in 2018:... read more

    • Luke Named Grand Marshal of Biloxi's Mardi Gras Parade

      Thursday, January 11, 2018 - Football

      Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will return to home to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in February. Luke was named the Neptune Parade Grand Marshal and will lead the Krew of Neptune's annual Mardi Gras Parade. The parade is... read more

    • A Closer Look: Wide Receivers

      Wednesday, January 10, 2018 - Football

      This is the third of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018. Top Performers: A.J. Brown (75 catches, 1,252 yards, 11 touchdowns), DaMarkus... read more

    • A Closer Look: Quarterbacks

      Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - Football

      This is the second of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018. Top Performer: Jordan Ta'amu (115-of-173, 1,682 yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions)... read more

    • A Closer Look: Running Backs

      Monday, January 8, 2018 - Football

      This is the first of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018. Top Performer: Jordan Wilkins (155 carries, 1,011 rushing yards (6.5 avg.),... read more

    • Tyree Aiming to Become Vocal Leader for Ole Miss

      Sunday, January 7, 2018 -

      Ole Miss needed a lift in the final eight minutes of Saturday's win over Mississippi State. The Rebels trailed 51-42 and were in the midst of a horrible shooting night that had them on the fast track to falling to... read more

    • Luke to be Part of Coaches Film Room During National Title Game

      Saturday, January 6, 2018 - Football

      Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will participate in ESPN's Coaches Film room during Monday night's national championship game between Georgia and Alabama. The Coaches Film room is part of ESPN's MegaCast for the championship game that includes 20... read more

    • Rebels Relying on Guard Play Against Mississippi State

      Friday, January 5, 2018 -

       Andy Kennedy has made his team's path to success this season abundantly clear. Ole Miss has to play with a blue-collar mentality on the defensive end and needs its guards to carry most of the scoring load. The latter was part... read more

    • NFL Rebels: Adeboyejo's Christmas Surprise

      Saturday, December 30, 2017 - Football

      The waiter began removing the clean plates and silverware from the three empty seats on the white cloth. There was no need for them. The only chair occupied at this four-person table at Sonny Lee's Hunan Taste restaurant in... read more

    • Ole Miss Begins SEC Play Against South Carolina

      Saturday, December 30, 2017 - Men's Basketball

      Ole Miss begins a new segment of its season on Sunday and arguably its most important one as South Carolina comes to The Pavilion to tip off SEC play. It was an up-and-down non-conference season for the Rebels who lost three games at... read more

    • Gates Recognized at Jackson TD Club Dinner

      Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - Football

      JACKSON, Miss. -Days after playing his final game in an Ole Miss uniform, Gates made his way to down to Jackson to be presented with the Jackson Touchdown Club's Most Valuable Senior Award Monday night. The award is exhibited... read more

    • Luke Ready for Opportunity at 'Dream Job'

      Monday, November 27, 2017 - Football

      OXFORD, Miss. - Matt Luke gripped the podium and grinned toward a crowd of media after being introduced by Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork as Ole Miss' next head football coach. With tears in his eyes, the... read more

OFFICIAL STORE