Mike Rayman (center), golf course grounds superintendent, talks to Darby Sligh, head coach of the women’s golf team, and Larry Lyons, athletics director, about the finer points of the Jim and Carole Mounier Golf Training Center during a recent tour of the new practice facility.
Illinois State University’s golf teams will get a big boost later this week with the opening of the Jim and Carole Mounier Golf Training Center.
The new center will provide the teams something they have never had: an on-campus practice facility, one that will boast dozens of tee boxes, several practice holes, and other features that will place it among the finest collegiate practice facilities in the country, according to Darby Sligh, head coach of the women’s golf team.
“It’s a program changer,” Sligh said.
The University will unveil the training center Friday, August 16, at The Players, an annual fundraiser benefitting the Illinois State University’s men’s and women’s golf teams with proceeds from this year’s event going to the expansion and enhancement of the Jim and Carole Mounier Golf Training Center at the Weibring Golf Club.
Here’s a nine-hole tour of the facility:
1. Not a driving range. Well, it’s not only a driving range. The facility is truly a training center, which besides offering a typical driving range setup has a putting green, a chipping area, and two fairways to which and from which players can hit a wide variety of shots in different wind conditions at seven target greens. There are even a few sand bunkers, and high grass bordering the west side of the range mimics some of the rough the players will face during competition.
2. Professional design. Longtime PGA Tour and Champions Tour professional golfer D.A. Weibring ’75 and architect Steve Wolfard, partners at Weibring-Wolfard Golf Design, designed the training center. They originally proposed the facility while renovating the University’s golf course in 2000, and were hired to design the center after then-President Al Bowman approved the project in 2011. The University also brought on Larry Denton, the former longtime PGA Tour employee who worked on the TPC Deere Run in the Quad Cities, to shape the grounds. “He can do things with a bulldozer that you and I can’t do with a spoon,” Illinois State Athletics Director Larry Lyons ’86 said.
3. Recruiting lure. The University’s golf teams previously practiced at off-campus facilities around town, a sometimes costly and inconvenient arrangement. Redbird golf coaches expect the new center to help in recruiting by offering a convenient on-campus facility that matches that of any other program in the nation.
4. Privately funded. Avid golfers and loyal Redbirds Jim ’74 and Carole Mounier ’75, of Rockford, donated $250,000 to make the center a reality. Other private donations will cover any further expenses for a facility that is expected to cost no more than $300,000.
5. Work in progress. While the facility opens this week, a little more than a year after construction began, players will be limited to the south end tees. Work on the bunkers and the north end will continue into next spring.
6. Teams only (for now). The training center was designed for use by the University’s golf teams and will not be open to the public until a parking lot and driveway are built to access the facility, which are slated for future phases of the project. The facility will also be open for fundraising events, Illinois High School Association tournaments, and NCAA-related competitions. Lyons said the practice facility should put the University in the running for NCAA regional bids.
7. Enough tees for a football team. The facility has tee areas, both uncovered and all grass, on its north and south ends. The south end tee area, which would be the section that could eventually be opened to the public, has two levels and room for 60 golfers, while the north end, meant for the Redbird golf teams, has two tee boxes, which face the fairways.
8. Field of dreams. The training center is located just west of the University’s golf course, and just a chip shot from the University (President’s) Residence, on 27 acres that was once a university-owned farm field. Lyons said a cart and balls will be awaiting new President Timothy J. Flanagan, who, like his predecessor Bowman, is said to be a golfer.
9. John Daly-proof. The PGA’s longtime big bomber, who once averaged 314 yards per drive, would have trouble knocking it out of the Mounier Golf Training Center. With 450 yards of driving length, the facility is expected to accommodate even the longest hitters and any technological improvements to golf balls or clubs for the foreseeable future.
Kevin Bersett can be reached at kdberse@IllinoisState.edu.