New practice facility sees first shots
The men's golf team hits the first-ever shots at the new facility. Play Video
The men's golf team hits the first-ever shots at the new facility.
JU men’s golf coach Mike Blackburn can’t begin to tell you how many hours he has spent working the turf at the new on-campus Swisher Golf Practice Facility.

And Monday, it didn’t really matter as the beaming Blackburn watched the men’s team take the first-ever shots at the facility on the southwest side of campus next to the river.

“When stuff needs doing, you can’t turn the clock on,’’ Blackburn said. “Several (hours), but I don’t know.’’ The first-class facility in on nearly six acres and has four functional greens, one for putting, one for pitches and chips and two as target greens along with three bunkers for the team to sharpen its short game skills.

The practice area, restricted to golf team members only, lets players have shots up to 160 yards, but he emphasis will be on the 125-yard mark and in.

“I’m excited about the whole project,’’ Blackburn said. “Our good friends at Swisher stepped up and provided the funding for the project and we had so many people pitch in and help but to see it all come together is good for us. Generally, the top 50 programs either have own practice facility or own their own course or both. Every once in a while another team will sneak in, but by and large you look at it every year and that’s what they’ve got.’’

Blackburn, who learned a thing or two about golf course maintenance while a club pro several years back, said talks about the began about four years ago. In February of 2012 ground broke and he believes the area needs about one more month and a half to grow.

Director of Athletics Brad Edwards lauded Blackburn’s efforts.

“Mike has done an amazing job not only securing the resources but jumping in and making it happen,’’ Edwards said. “For me, having the pleasure to come around in the morning and afternoon and see him actually doing a lot of the work himself and see people take ownership of your growth it really gives you a lot of pride.’’

Edwards said the facility is another reminder that JU has the best interests of student-athletes in mind.

“I’m very student-athlete focused and I think that’s the kind of organization we have here,’’ he said. “We are really focused on the student-athlete, on their experience, on their welfare and at the same time we want to compete and they want to compete. They want to get better and they need the tools to not only recruit the kinds of teammates that can help them win championships but can put them in an area where they can hone their skills.’’

- Jim Nasella