HAPPY THANKSGIVING AT U OF I

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BY; RORY SPEARS SR. WRITER & ASSISTANT EDITOR

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THE NEW OUTDOOR PRACTICE FACILITY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

Happy Thanksgiving from the Gog Blog, enjoy the food, family and football. On Friday you can go shopping for golf goodies.

Down in Champaign they are giving thanks for the new Lauristen/Wohlers Outdoor practice facility right next to the the current indoor facility the J.G. Demirjian.

When coach Mike Small arrived back at U of I where he played golf in his college days, he wanted to build a program that could compete, year in and year out.

Small’s job to recruit top high school players wasn’t an easy one since his school was located up north, where every winter the temperatures dropped and snow piled up. With the lure of warm weather and year round outside practice and golf calling from the South, top northern players kept leaving for warmer climates. At that time, Small realized he needed to do something to keep his kids playing all year round.

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The greens and tee’s are growing in.

In 2007 Small got his indoor facility open, soon Illinois players had a chance to work on their game all year. There was a big putting and chipping area installed. When it came time to hit the long clubs, players can enter the heated hitting bays.

It was facilities like this that helped getting Small better players, and kids weren’t afraid to stay North for the winter. While the indoor facility was a big help, it was time to match the facility with an outdoor area that was just as good.

Small is fortunate that he now has several alumni that are playing on the PGA Tour, including his former Illini teammate Steve Stricker. This past spring while Stricker was playing at the Masters in Augusta National, Small went along and studied the practice facility. Stricker and Small took notes and pictures. Shortly after they returned to Illinois, ground was broke outside the indoor facility on the new outdoor practice area, inspired by what the pro’s and top amateurs use at Augusta National for the Masters.

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Golf course architect Jeff Brauer helped design the facility.

As the outdoor facility prepares to open, the men’s team is ranked No.1 in the country. As they prepare to carry that ranking towards the NCAA Championship in May, the facility that measures 24 acres should be ready to help the team in the spring. Cost of the project was about 2 million dollars.

The facility is open for use by the Illinois Women’s team as well.

As the men’s team makes a run for the national title this spring, they will be giving thanks for a chance to ┬ábe prepared as well as they can be.

NOTE: Senior Brian Campbell turned down a chance to practice with the USA Walker Cup team, because he will likely turn pro before the matches are held in 2015. In his place Junior Charlie Danielson will go to the practices.

Pictures courtesy of U of I athletics.

Happy Thanksgiving…from the Gog Blog.

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About Rory Spears

Rory spent over 8 years growing up working at Rob Roy Golf Club in Prospect Hts.IL, then two years at Chevy Chase in Wheeling. He has covered golf in Chicago since 1986. Rory was one of the initial members of WSCR all-sports radio Chicago and covered golf there for 5 seasons, before moving on to work for ESPN/Sportsticker and ESPN Radio. In addition to hosting Golfers on Golf Radio on WNDZ Am 750 Chicago, he writes for both Chicagoland Golf and the Chicago District (CDGA) Magazine. Rory has played over 460 courses in 37 states, and rates golf courses. He does golf course management and communications consulting, in the golf industry.