A putting dream

Jeff Russ

New state-of-the-art facility will help KSU golfers sharpen game, rain or shine

Senior member of the women’s golf team, Karen Delaney, practices her putting at the new Golf Teaching and Learning Facility in Kent on Monday.

Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

It’s a cold, rainy Tuesday afternoon, and the women’s golf team is scheduled to practice. With putters and wedges out, they are hitting golf balls in preparation for their next tournament. But on this day, the women are practicing inside, away from the elements at the new Golf Teaching and Learning Facility.

The $2 million privately funded project was recently completed at the Kent State University Golf Course. Although there is still some cosmetic work to be done, the team is now able to use the facility for practices.

“It’s probably a 100 percent efficient building,” said women’s headcoach Mike Morrow. “It is not lacking anything, and every inch is well utilized.”

The outdoor portion of the facility was finished during the summer of 2006. It contains a 350-yard practice range, a 10,000 square-foot putting green and four target greens. In order to simulate an actual golf course, it also contains full sand bunkers.

“It’s more than just a driving range,” said men’s head coach Herb Page. “At a driving range, you are just hitting balls very far, but here the players actually get a feel of where the ball is going to land.”

The outdoor facility has tees on both sides. Page said this helps because players can hit in or out of the wind, depending on how it’s blowing.

“The outdoor range is awesome,” said senior men’s golfer Marc Bourgeois. “I’ve never seen anything like it; you hit every shot you can imagine.

The indoor portion of the facility, which contains a 2,500-square foot practice green and chipping area, was recently completed and is now being used by both the men’s and women’s teams.

The indoor green has a special surface that is meant to hold chips and putts, and the speed of the greens can also be increased or decreased by adjusting the surface.

“As a northern team, our short game always hurts us,” Page said. “But now we have no excuses.”

Junior Tom Ballinger thinks the indoor green will be beneficial, especially during the early-season tournaments. “Our big issue in Ohio is the weather,” Ballinger said.

Last week, the women’s team was scheduled to practice outside, but cold weather and rain prevented that.

“Today, it’s raining,” senior Karen Delaney said while the team chipped and putted inside. “We would be outside freezing, and I don’t know how motivated everyone would be.”

The indoor facility also has a heated driving range, which allows players to hit balls onto the practice range from inside the building’s heated stalls.

“We used to hit balls into a net at the Field House,” Morrow said. “You couldn’t see the final result of the shot, and the players might not have any idea where the ball was going to land. Now we can see the final results of each swing.”

Ohio weather, it seems, will begin playing less of a role in the golf teams’ success.

“This will help me stay with my game all year,” freshman Dianna Smith said.

And Smith, along with the rest of the golfers, will now be able to analyze her swing, as well. Four video cameras are connected to a computer and displayed on a 50-inch plasma television set up in the facility’s video room.

The technology will allow players to analyze their swings in a number of ways, and they can even compare their swings with the swings of other golfers, including PGA pros such as Tiger Woods and Kent State graduate Ben Curtis.

Although it’s not yet completed, the inside of the facility will feature, as Page described it, a “gallery of champions.”

There will pictures of all the Mid-American Conference champions, Academic All-Americans, All-Americans and a monument to Ben Curtis, who won the 2003 British open.

“When a recruit comes in here and sees what we have,” Page said, “how can he turn away from Kent State and not be impressed?”

Contact golf reporter Jeff Russ at [email protected].