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UI swings and misses on $1.8 million golf facility

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | FEBRUARY 08, 2012 7:20 AM

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A bit of trivia for your day: When deciding how long a course should be, the Scots decided it should be just enough to finish a fifth of Scotch at one shot per hole — or 18.

Take 18, multiply by 100,000, and you will have a rough estimate of the amount required to merely build the University of Iowa's golf practice facility at Finkbine Golf Course.

$1.8 million. Even though that's coming from private donations and fundraising, the project represents misplaced priorities from the greater UI community. While we applaud donors to the project for chipping in to help the university, there might be better destinations for those donations.

This, of course, does not include the maintenance costs passed on to the Athletics Department when the job is complete — such factors as costs of staff that has the ability to work and fix the heated hitting bays, along with the technical support to calibrate the film technology allowing players to analyze their respective swings. I wonder how many shots of Scotch administration officials raking in mid-six-figures a year had before they gave the go on this project.

Oh, but sure, the facility will allow golfers to practice their swings in any weather conditions. "It's really important to have a place where [Hawkeye golfers] can maintain their skills and maintain their level of play during the winter," said women's golf coach Megan Menzel in an interview with The Daily Iowan.

But the golf teams have practice areas for winter already — they currently use the Field House and the Bubble for practice. These two facilities are both already built and would not detract from UI's initiative to keep tuition down. The more facilities a university has, the more money it needs — the more money it needs, the higher tuition students will pay.

But, then, one might say those facilities do not have the proper equipment to progressively guide the players to their full potential.

"One of the reasons [for building the facility] is to be a little more compact in one place for a winter training facility," said Senior Associate Athletics Director Jane Meyer said in an interview with the DI. "They can change, go practice, shower, get to class, or other responsibilities they have."

A fair argument, as I'm sure swinging and showering in one place would save time, but unfortunately UI needs to save pennies and not golfer-seconds. When looking at a 3.75 percent tuition hike, to students who don't golf saving time doesn't look as good as saving money.

The program also has in its employment one of the best golf coaches in the Midwest, Mark Hankins, to shepherd the program to success without the need of fancy facilities.

That's not enough, though.

"We have been behind in the facilities race, and this will help us catch and surpass many of the Big Ten schools," said Hankins, the Hawkeye men's golf coach.

To characterize something as a "facilities race" gives me chills of a Cold War-type standoff among all the Big Ten schools over who can engineer the best player to hit a golf ball the farthest — and if not that, then have the best facilities to attract the best players and biggest donors.

But at what cost? Do we really want to trade the money we put into other sports, such as football and basketball, which contribute huge economic successes to local restaurants and hotels, into a $1.8 million glorified-driving-range to win a facilities race?

The success of a program always comes down to money. How much money you have and how much money you spend are key factors in the growth of any program — from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to the UI Ping Pong Club.

But with $1.8 million, the UI could start building a new library or provide much needed improvements on the ones it has. The university and its donors could help fund breakthroughs in therapies, like Dr. Beverly Davidson's research focused on child brain disorders. With $1.8 million, the UI could focus on treatment for its infamous reputation of being a binge-drinking school by targeting student education and enforcement programs. We could make sure the campus is safe and prevent future violence against women by reforming and funding Nite Ride.


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