Flames golf coach John Maupin has been working diligently along with Lee athletics director Larry Carpenter, Cleveland Country Club general manager Lamar Mills and golf course superintendent Jeff Travis to make sure the men’s and women’s golf teams get the best chance possible to make an early, positive showing in the new conference.
Lee and Cleveland Country Club have partnered to build a 7,000-square-foot practice facility complete with greenside and fairway bunkers to aid the Flames in honing skills on and just off the green.
The facility, funded by Lee, boasts both “TifEagle” and Bermuda grass to give golfers a better look at the types of grasses the teams will see during tournaments and competition inside and outside the conference.
Sitting some 30 yards from the green is a fairway bunker where longer bunker shots into the green can be worked on. The green also has been designed in a double-tiered fashion so shots up and down the slope can be perfected.
“We’ve been talking about the project for the last couple of years. There were about five acres at the back of the driving range and it was always kind of an idea we could go back there and put a short game area in. John and I started talking a little bit about it and from that point it sparked some interest on his part and the rest has kinda been a ball in motion,” said Mills.
“With Lee making the move to NCAA Division II, from a recruiting standpoint it is a great thing. The ability for his teams to practice back there and have some shots they wouldn’t typically get off the [practice] green we have here — it gives them the ability to prepare as they go out and compete.”
The facility not only will provide Lee and CCC golfers the opportunity to work on various shots from the fairway and putts from varying slopes and angles on the green, it will provide Mills and Travis the chance to study the different grasses and how to better improve the country club links in general.
“This obviously will give us an opportunity to see how the Bermuda reacts. When the bent grass is coming out of its season and needs to be aerated, the Bermuda would be there and we would be able to utilize it. John’s teams will be able to see that as well as when the Bermuda is out of its season and needs to be aerated, the bent grass is going full force at that point,” said Mills. “He has an opportunity for his team to hit off two different types of grass. That’s pretty much going to cover what they are going to see. With the conference they are going to be in, they will be traveling down into the South where there are a lot of Bermuda greens.
Maupin said this is another example of Lee’s commitment to bringing a quality product to the new conference home.
“I think the school as a whole is taking the move to NCAA Division II seriously. We don’t want to have a drop-off in our ability to compete nationally and felt this is an opportunity to make our current golfers stronger and give them an opportunity to be better prepared for tournament with some of the shots they can practice back there. Certainly, from a recruiting standpoint I think anytime you can have something to point to and call your own a little bit, it helps out a lot. It’s also something that a lot of the schools in our conference don’t have. We see that as an advantage over those teams,” said Maupin.
“I thank the administration at Lee for the commitment. I also want to thank Lamar, Jeff and both their staffs for what they’ve done in such a quick time frame, and the board for going in on this joint project. It has been nice. We could not be more excited about how it has worked out. With our relationship with the club, it was an opportunity to have it at a place where it was going to be protected, well maintained and beneficial for both sides. It’s been really a blessing.”
The work on the practice facility, located at the east end of the CCC driving range, was, for the most part, done by Travis and his team of groundskeepers. Noted course designer Bob Gerard was brought in to handle the contouring and building of the actual green.
“He has worked with Greg Norman, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and many other big names in golf. He retired a little over four years ago after working on a golf course for Norman in South Africa. He decided he would rather be home and spend time with his grandkids,” Travis said of Gerard. “He’s missing it (golf) a little bit, so I decided to give him a call and asked him if he would be interested. He came out and really enjoyed himself.”
When Mills and Maupin approached Carpenter about the idea, the Lee AD immediately took the concept to Lee President Paul Conn, who green-lighted the project without hesitation.
“I want to thank the administration for funding this. It was something I took to Dr. Conn, and immediately he said ‘Let’s do this,’” said Carpenter. “It is just another step in a wonderful relationship between Lee, the country club and Lamar. I think he has been around Lee golfers for about 16 years now, and he has done a wonderful job working with us. Everything we try to do at Lee we try to do with excellence. Certainly this practice facility is going to be state of the art. John, over the course of the years has been very successful. He brings in great kids both on and off the course and in the classroom. A lot of times we like to reward our coaches and also give them what they need to move up and be more successful.”
“I’m appreciative of the funding and, of course, of Lamar and Jeff, for getting the personnel out here with the vision. We started out with tall grass and a bunch of trees. I didn’t personally see the vision, but when they got finished with, it I can see it’s first class.”
According to Maupin, the appreciative Flames are anxious to get going on the new grasses and begin working on perfecting all sorts of shots from all different angles.
“They are thrilled; they can’t wait. As word started leaking out, I sent them a text this summer and the responses were very excited. When they got back to campus a few days ago, we brought them all out here and let them see it for the first time, and they were thrilled. It’s something we’ve wanted to do and it speaks to the success our players have had that the school was willing to make that commitment. We are certainly grateful for that. A lot of hard work has gone into it, but one thing I can say about them is they will have an attitude of gratitude. They won’t take it for granted at all,” he said.
“The thought behind the design from the beginning was to basically set it up to practice any shot you can imagine inside 30 yards. We were fortunate to have access to Bob with Jeff’s connection. He just took it and ran with it. Any shot you want to hit you can come up with it out there.”
Mills went on to say the partnership with Lee will only be beneficial, not only for the Flames, but for the general membership at CCC.
“You have a 7,000-square-foot green, there are greenside bunkers and a lot of contour to the green to provide different putts and different ideas on how to approach the shot. It’s exciting for the membership.
“Not only is this going to be an asset for John and Lee, but it is also something the membership will benefit from as well, and be able to go back and use. It only adds to this relationship that’s been going for a long time. It continues to grow stronger. In the end, it’s a win-win situation for everyone,” he said.