COLUMBIA — On Saturday, the Missouri men's and women's golf teams presented the grand opening of the Walsworth Family Golf Center at The Club at Old Hawthorne. Both teams, various alumni, golf enthusiasts and donors stood together, applauding, to see the ribbon cutting.
"It just seems so surreal to be at this point, standing in front of this gorgeous golf center, and realize how far this athletic department and these two golf programs have come over the years," Missouri women's coach Stephanie Priesmeyer said. "Excitement, pride and a tremendous sense of gratitude to all of those people that have had a hand in helping us reach our goal of building this golf center."
Redshirt sophomore Michelle Butler spoke on the behalf of both golf teams.
"Today marks one of the most transforming days in the men's and women's golf programs here at Mizzou," Butler said. "We now have a place to call our home, the Walsworth Family Golf Center. On behalf of the members of the golf team, to say that we're excited is an understatement."
The clubhouse's features include locker rooms, hitting bays, coaching offices, a team lounge and a state-of-the-art, high-definition golf simulator. The simulator offers players the chance to practice regardless of the weather.
"You can play golf courses, you can set up the computer to do drills for different shots and distances," Priesmeyer said. "It will really take the place of just hitting balls from a basket. At least now in the wintertime they can come and have a two-hour practice and play."
Both teams hope that their new home will aid in the recruiting process.
"It really is all about the stuff," Priesmeyer said. "It used to not be about the stuff, but with recruits today you've got to have all the bells and whistles to keep up with everyone else."
Men's coach Mark Leroux agreed with Priesmeyer.
"It's incredible," Leroux said. "We've caught up. We're back up to speed with the rest of the arms race in divisional golf."
Several major donors spoke at the grand opening. Ben Thomas, the captain of the men's golf team in 1970, recalled how his team had to find creative ways to keep practicing during the winter.
"Al Chandler was the coach back then," Thomas said. "His idea was to go to Rothwell gym where that wonderful student activity center is now and drop these tarps in the back of the bleachers and have us come over at night. There was a eighth-of-a-mile oval track in that old facility and it was all old, cracked dirt. Now picture us hitting balls off that dirt that's like concrete into these tarps. That was then, and this is now."
Don Walsworth, a member of the family for which the clubhouse is named, said that the new facility will help both teams in their striving for a national championship.
"It's so important that men and women have the facilities to really compete at a national level," Walsworth said.