By Brett Zallek – [email protected]
St. John’s athletic facilities are continuing to improve. This time, it’s the Alpers Golf Learning Center making its debut to campus.
The Golf Center is in the building attached to the Gagliardi Field and Seasonal Dome. It consists of a full putting green and two golf simulators equipped with TrackMan technology. The funding for the Golf Center was donated by SJU golf alumni, separate from the money that paid for the field and Dome.
“As [the project of the Dome] was getting going, it made sense to make a golf presence in the Dome area,” SJU Athletic Director and Head Golf Coach Bob Alpers said. “Golf alums wanted to give a state-of-the-art practice facility for the team.”
They have done just that.
The TrackMan system uses a projector screen, a camera sensor and a computer connected wirelessly. Together, the technology records statistics for the golfers (such as swing speed, ball flight, club head angle, etc.) and projects a path and distance for the ball when it is hit into the screen. It also has 17 real golf courses loaded into its software, which enables the players to play an 18-hole round.
The upgrades quickly elevated the resources available for the 2016 MIAC Champion Johnnie golfers.
“It’s state-of-the-art equipment, and it’s better than just about anything I’ve ever seen. It’s awesome,” senior golfer Mack Farley said. “Last year we just hit into batting cages, so we’d see about 15 feet of ball flight. Now we have the dome to hit 100-yard shots in and then the simulator which tells you way more statistics than you’d ever even need to know.”
While the equipment will be utilized by the SJU golf team, it will also be made available to students and local residents.
The first night open was Feb. 1, and Alpers said they hope to have the Golf Center open as much as they can, provided people are interested. They don’t have a schedule in place yet for what night(s) of the week it will be open, as they are waiting to gauge interest.
It costs $15 per person for groups up to four to use the simulators for an hour and a half time slot to play any of the courses. Alpers said the money made will not go to the golf team but rather it will be used for operating and maintenance costs for the Golf Center and the Dome. He based the price off of what other simulator operators cost, such as at Gustavus where they charge $10 an hour.
Looking ahead, the team is optimistic that the new facility will help their recruiting and training between the fall and spring golf seasons.
“Nobody has a better facility than this one. Even Division I schools,” Alpers said. “I’m so grateful to our golf alums—the donors—they wanted to make this thing right and they did a wonderful job. It was a great win both ways; it’s going to help the golf team out a ton, and also maybe [be] something that students can come in and have some opportunities to enjoy.”