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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
For much of three decades, Ohio State winning a Big Ten golf championship each spring was only slightly less certain than death and taxes -- and much better to look forward to.
The men's team won 16 titles in the 22 seasons from 1976 through 1997 under coach Jim Brown, as well as an NCAA championship in 1979, one of only two in the past 50 years by a school not from the South or West.
The women's team, meanwhile, won 11 titles in 23 years, including six in the nine years from 1997 through 2005 under coach Therese Hession.
Both programs had tradition and recognizable names on both the PGA and LPGA tours, and they had one of the game's best training grounds in the historic Scarlet Course.
Eventually, though, even that wasn't enough to keep the ball rolling. Neither program has won a Big Ten title in the past eight years.
"You spend two or three months not being able to practice, that really hurts when you're trying to recruit the best kids," junior Logan Jones of Dublin said.
That might not be a problem anymore.
For the first time this winter, the men's and women's teams were able to practice in a $6.3 million, state-of-the-art indoor facility before they began their spring seasons in the Sun Belt. As a result, "our short games were much sharper," Jones said. "We felt like we were ready to go coming out of the winter as opposed to wiping the dust off our clubs."
In past years, the teams had had to chip and putt on about 30 feet of artificial turf in the basement of the Ohio State Golf Club's pro shop. For full shots, they drove to a Hilliard practice range.
The new facility gives them everything they need under two roofs, and more:
* Five heated driving bays on the practice range where they can hit full shots in the coldest weather without having to wear a parka.
* A 12,500-square-foot practice area, in which they can hit wedge shots up to 40 yards and full shots into netting. The bay is equipped with video and tracking technology to give a golfer immediate feedback on his swing and ball flight.
* An undulating green-and-bunker complex "where you can hit any kind of shot you'd get on the golf course," men's assistant coach Ryan Potter said.
* A putting surface divided into sections running at two different speeds (9.5 and 11 feet on the Stimpmeter) to prepare for faster and slower surfaces.
* A hydraulic putting "floor" equipped with computerized technology to dissect a golfer's stroke on a flat surface and to allow practice on sidehill lies.
The 20,000-square-foot facility, north of the clubhouse and east of the 18th fairway, also includes players' lounges, locker rooms, a weight training and conditioning area, a club-repair room and four coaches' offices.
The facility was a long time coming. So long that most other programs in the Midwest had something similar by the time Donnie Darr succeeded Brown as coach of the men's team in 2009. None is as large or elaborate as Ohio State's, though.
"We were late to the dance, but by coming in late, you get to see what people have done and make some adjustments and improvements in areas where you didn't think they did as well," Darr said.
"To me, it didn't matter how soon we got this building built. What was important to me was that we do it the right way."
Darr said losing some recruits in recent years because Ohio State lacked such a facility did not hurt the program as much as that "everybody else was getting better 12 months of the year and our kids were only getting better several months of the year.
"I think what you're going to find with a building like this is our current players are going to get better, and then that's going to lead to other kids wanting to come here because they're going to say, 'Wow, look how much he's improved since he's been there.'
"Now that we have this, I believe Ohio State can get back on top and be a premier program. But I don't just want to be the best in the Big Ten. I want to be a premier national contender every year."
ERIC ALBRECHT / DISPATCH PHOTOS (1) Josh Wick, front, and Fredrick Hammer of the men's team practice inside the new Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center at the Ohio State Golf Club. The Buckeyes say the $6.3 million facility will help them return to championship status. (2) Luxurious locker rooms await the players inside the new facility.