Regents approve new golf facility

BY SETH ROBERTS | JUNE 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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The state Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan to build a new training facility for the Iowa men’s and women’s golf teams on Wednesday.

Private donations will fund the $1.9 million project, and it will be built near Finkbine Golf Course.
Iowa men’s head coach Mark Hankins, who has worked toward getting the facility approved for several years, said he had a good feeling about the project when the regents voted Wednesday morning.

“I was confident that it would [get approved],” he said. “We’ve done our research; we know it’s feasible; we know it’s necessary; and we know it’s in a great spot on our golf course that’s already part of [the university’s] land. It’s a nice addition to Finkbine Golf Course and our Athletics Department.”

The facility will include locker rooms for both Iowa’s men’s and women’s teams, a team lounge area, and offices for both Hankins and women’s head coach Kelly Crawford.

“We have a small locker room in Finkbine, but it’s a public golf facility that’s used by everybody in the country,” Hankins said. “We don’t have anything of our own — we don’t really have our own area.”

While that will soon be fixed, he said, the true value of the center will be what he called the “performance studio.” This area will hold five heated indoor-to-outdoor hitting bays that will protect players from the elements and allow them to take full swings onto the driving range in even the worst Iowa weather.

“[It will help] the advancement of each player in any condition — during the season, in the off-season, during rainstorms, at 6 in the morning — whatever it might be,” the fourth-year coach said. “It’s a huge upgrade from what we’ve had in the past.”

The studio will also be equipped with state-of-the-art video technology and a large, synthetic indoor green for putting and chipping.

Hankins said the center isn’t a radical idea; eight Big Ten schools either have a similar facility or are in the process of building one. The project therefore becomes a means of keeping up with the competition, both in the conference and the schools in the South that can play almost year-round.

“The need for the facility to be competitive in the Big Ten was persuasive,” Regent President David Miles said. The rest of the regents agreed, although Regent Robert Downer abstained because of a conflict of interest.

The timing of the announcement is hardly coincidental, either. The Iowa men’s golf team recently wrapped up perhaps its best year ever, a season in which senior Vince India was named Big Ten Golfer of the Year and the Hawkeyes finished tied for 10th place at the NCAA championships.

“[The plan] points to the success we’ve had as a team — they wouldn’t build it if we didn’t show good results,” said junior Chris Brant, who finished tied for 20th at NCAAs. “These past few years, we’ve made leaps and bounds, and I think the Board of Regents and the Athletics Department realizes that. Success has paved the way.”

Now that the project has been approved, Hankins said, the final step before construction can begin is to secure the funding.

“We really need solidify all the gifts now,” he said. “It’s an official project now that the Board of Regents has OK’d it, and there are a lot of people who have expressed interest. Now, we have to go out and make those a reality.”

DI reporter Luke Voelz contributed to this article.

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