ABILENE – Construction is underway on a short-game practice area for the ACU men's golf team, a training venue that will be ready for use this fall.
The first phase of the ACU Golf Training Facility – being built on the east side of Judge Ely Boulevard across from Crutcher Scott Field – is being funded through gifts made by Mark and April Anthony and Eric and Danna Oliver. The short-game course inside the facility will be called "The Jim," in recognition of Jim Anthony and Jim Oliver, the fathers of Mark Anthony and Eric Oliver.
"It's only appropriate to name the ACU golf short-game area 'The Jim' after our fathers," Mark Anthony said. "Our fathers not only helped teach Eric and me the game of golf, but they used golf to instill in us a multitude of life and faith values such as friendship, patience, diligence, honesty, competitiveness, and self-control. Eric and I pray that these values are constantly instilled in each current and future Wildcat golfer and coach who enter 'The Jim.' "
The venue – which includes two phases – is being designed by D.A. Weibring and the Golf Resource Group Team with which he works. Weibring is a longtime pro golfer who won five career PGA tournaments and the 2008 Champions Tour Players Championship before entering the golf course design business.
The first phase is a four-green complex featuring a large serpentine-shaped green surrounded by four bunkers and unique chipping area. The other three greens are shaped in the other corners of the four-acre property, providing players many different angles to practice from 130 yards out to a player's chosen target.
"We focused on a variety of styles for the greens and bunkers to provide a full experience for the team," Weibring said. "Uphill, downhill and sidehill opportunities will challenge the team, providing competitive situations to improve the most important scoring part of the game."
The short-game area will feature approximately 28,000 square feet of greens, 6,000 square feet of sand in nine bunkers, new trees, and a complete irrigation and drainage system along with four acres of maintained turf. The facility – which will be for use by the ACU golf team only – will be secured by a fence surrounding the area.
Eric Oliver said his desire to help build the short-game practice area stemmed from his father's lifelong love of the game and the lessons it taught him.
"My father introduced me to the game at an early age and I used a cut-down 3-iron," he said. "He took up golf right after college and loved the game until the day he died (March 1, 2018). He used the putter that came in his first set of clubs his entire golfing life (more than 55 years). He was a wizard with that club, often times using it from up to 50 yards out and countless times out of the bunker. It's very appropriate to honor him with this short-game practice facility and encourage creative shot-making. He would often say about the value of such skills, 'It's not how; it's how many.' "
ACU is currently working through design details of Phase II of the venue, which – with additional funding – will include a golf operations building that would likely house coaches' offices, team rooms, locker rooms and indoor hitting bays.
"Recruits seeking an outstanding college golf program with some of the best training facilities in the nation need to look no farther than ACU," head coach Tom Shaw said. " 'The Jim' puts ACU golf on par with some of the best collegiate programs and we are so grateful to the Anthony and Oliver families for making this possible for our student-athletes.
"Architect D.A. Weibring has created a masterpiece that simulates every shot you could face inside 130 yards," Shaw said. "Our players, both past and present, have been desiring a practice area such as 'The Jim' for a long time and it is now becoming a reality. Even better, this incredible place is within walking distance from campus. It will indeed be the new home for ACU golf."