By Emma King, Staff Writer
Construction on Baylor’s new multimillion dollar golf practice facility is slated to begin in early 2016, thanks to approval from the Board of Regents during their homecoming meeting.
The facility will be located adjacent to campus, on a 14-acre plot of land on University Parks Drive.
“This will be a dramatic change in terms of location,” said Ian McCaw, vice president and director of student athletics. “It’ll be very convenient for the student athletes. Currently they need to drive close to 20 minutes out to the practice facility at Twin Rivers.”
The new facility is going to improve the student athlete experience, said men’s golf coach Mike McGraw.
“You don’t want your student athletes on the road that much, and it certainly does take away from the time they have to work on their game,” McGraw said.
He said Baylor’s facility will be more conducive to better practice. The grounds will include a driving range, a short range course and a putting green, surrounded by trees to provide a shield from wind.
“I think that the biggest thing that it’s going to do is put us in the upper echelon of college golf teams,” women’s golf coach Jay Goble said.
McGraw said it will help attract better student athletes when they see the commitment that the university has to the golf program. There are currently 12 members on the men’s golf team and there will be eight members on the women’s team in January.
“Our players are really excited,” Goble said. “I think when we first kind of talked about this idea and this dream that Coach McGraw and I had, I don’t think they believed us that it was going to happen.”
He said recruits are excited about it too and that he hopes the facility will help draw in players from all over the world.
“We have exceptional coaching leadership in our golf programs under Mike McGraw and Jay Goble,” McCaw said. “We look forward to both programs competing for championships in the Big XII and nationally thanks to this state of the art facility.”
McCaw said the first steps for the project will be preparing the soil and starting to landscape the area.
The facility will be named in honor of Baylor alum Billy Williams and his family.
“It’s a very generous gift from an alum who’s done a lot for the university,” McCaw said. “Golf is something that is a hobby of his and that was part of the desire to make this gift.”
The Williams Family Soccer and Olympic Sports Center, which opened this fall, was also named for Williams, in recognition of his lead gift for that facility as well.
Williams played football at Baylor, lettering in 1962. In 2012, he was named by the Baylor “B” Association to its Wall of Honor, recognizing athletes’ accomplishments after graduation that have brought positive public recognition and honor to Baylor and its athletic department.
McGraw said he doesn’t know how the golf facility project would have gained momentum without Williams.
“When we secured that piece of land, that’s Baylor land, then it was just about raising money,” McGraw said. “We’re off to a great start, I couldn’t be more excited.”