Improving the Golf Story
When 6-8 inches of snow are dumped on Laramie in the middle of May, it reminds us how unpredictable Wyoming weather can be and how challenging it is to participate in outdoor sports—especially golf. The UW Golf team, along with private donors, decided to show Mother Nature that they won’t be pushed around—by constructing the University of Wyoming Ron R. Richardson Golf Performance Center.
“There’s no doubt this building greatly improves our story,” says Joe Jensen, UW Men’s Golf coach. “We can now take a player and set up a better, more diligent, more disciplined program, and we have greater assets to be able to do that.”
“Every part of their game will improve,” says Josey Stender, UW Women’s Golf coach.
Golf Runs Deep
The $1.3 million state-of-the-art facility is funded entirely with private gifts. It is the second building on campus to be funded this way, the first being the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center. The Fisher family—Blake and Julie Fisher and Donne and Sue Fisher—made the lead donation for the facility, and that is why it is named in honor of their family friend, Ron Richardson.
Donne and Sue Fisher’s support of the University of Wyoming has been extraordinary. In addition to supporting athletics, they support academics and made a large donation to the UW Literacy Center and Research Clinic. Their original intention was to name the literacy center after Ron. The Richardson family was incredibly flattered and taken aback by the Fishers’ gesture but felt that naming the golf facility after Ron would be more appropriate.
The Richardson family’s ties to athletics and golf runs deep. Tracy Richardson, Ron’s son, who works for the UW Foundation and helped raise funds for this project, is a former UW Cowboy golfer. Ron and his wife Kris created the Ronald R. Richardson Golf Excellence Fund to foster excellence and provide support to the UW men’s and women’s golf programs. Ron was also very involved with Cowboy Joe Club. It seemed only fitting to name the facility after someone so dedicated to UW golf.
“My dad was always very involved with UW Athletics,” explains Tracy Richardson. “He was on the Cowboy Joe Club board for a long time, and he was the president of the Cowboy Joe Club board for a number of years. My dad was a huge golfer and very passionate about golf.”
The facility will include four eight-foot-wide hitting bays; an 1,800-plus-square-foot indoor putting green with a high-tech synthetic surface; a state-of-the-art golf simulator; a centralized location for range balls with a washing station; and a team room with amenities, locker rooms, an office, study areas, a team lounge, a hall of fame, and recognition of donors.
The simulator is from the industry leader aboutGolf and is the same type that the Golf Channel uses. Its 3D graphics let the golfer feel like they are really on a particular course—it’s possible to golf in Florida in February without leaving Wyoming. The company spends more than a year reproducing every course so that the golfer feels like they’re really there.
The launch monitor is provided by Trackman, another industry leader in golf technology. It gives the golfer reliable swing and ball flight data, which are essential to game improvement.
These tools are the best in the industry, which is what UW golfers need to become top-notch players and to remain competitive. Cowboy and Cowgirl golf players will be able to improve every aspect of their game—from putting to driving to everything in between. The University of Wyoming Ron R. Richardson Golf Performance Center gives them the opportunity to practice year-round in an environment that mimics actual playing surfaces.
It will also be a place where the golf teams can host alumni events, allowing previous generations and current students to mingle and swap stories.
A Place of Our Own
In addition to sheltering the players and coaches from adverse weather, the Indoor Golf Facility gives the program its own space. Previously, their practices were held on the Hager-LeBar Indoor Track after the track team was done for the day. They had a small room upstairs in the Field House where they stored their clubs.
With the completion of this project, the track team gets its indoor track back, the maintenance crew in the Field House gets use of the room where the clubs were stored, and the wrestling team gets to expand its facilities. Multiple teams benefit from the new building, but none more so than the golf team.
“It’s a place of our own,” says Stender. “Just to have that wow factor of the locker room, the technology—something that’s ours. We can tell the recruits all day long how much support we have from our administration and our booster group, but they don’t see that like we do, and to have something tangible that they see is huge.”
Members of the community and the First Tee Golf Program will also benefit from the University of Wyoming Ron R. Richardson Golf Performance Center. Again, with weather being a major factor, the kids in the First Tee program often have a short season, but this facility will allow the instructors to expand the curriculum to expose them to golf on different levels and at various time during the year, not just in the summer months.
With limited memberships, the public will also be able to utilize the building’s technology and improve their game.
“Why there is such support for the building is that it is unique and it’s going to impact many people,” says Jensen. “While it is a training facility for the golf programs, we’ll have memberships. We’ll do junior clinics. It’ll impact our community. It’s a building that we’ll be able to draw not only people locally but people will come regionally to have access to this facility.”
The building should also help with recruitment of the men’s and women’s golf teams. Up until now, Wyoming hasn’t necessarily been viewed as a superb place to play golf because of the weather, but with this great facility and the wonderful education that students receive at the University of Wyoming, UW will appeal to high-quality players.
A grand opening for the facility and golf team reunion will be held on Saturday, September 20, 2014. It will be a celebration of the phenomenal facility and a chance for friends to reconnect.
One of the goals of the University of Wyoming is to ensure that our students have the best opportunities available to them. The Ron R. Richardson Golf Performance Center is part of that promise, and it couldn’t have been accomplished without the collaboration between the university and the private donors who share the same passion to see students succeed. It is a testament to how working together can make a huge impact.
The University of Wyoming Ron R. Richardson Golf Performance Center