The Ohio State men’s and women’s golf teams will be able to tee off come rain or shine soon, in part because of a donation from a local businessman and his wife.
Walt Dennis, president and CEO of Central Ohio-based HFI Automotive, and his wife Jane Dennis, recently gave $1.5 million to help construct the 20,800-square-foot Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center, said OSU Athletic Department spokesman Dan Wallenberg in an email.
The total cost of the project is $6 million and the center is on schedule to open in January, Wallenberg said.
The Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center, which is roughly one-third the size of a football field, will be one of the largest collegiate indoor golf facilities in the nation, according to a May press release from the OSU Athletic Department.
The new facility is set to house a heated hitting bay, both men’s and women’s team locker rooms and offices for each coach, as well as additional meeting rooms and storage, according to the release.
Walt Dennis, a Bowling Green State University alumnus, said his and Jane’s motivation for the donation was their belief in making a difference that can be “felt, seen and experienced by many.”
It also didn’t hurt the two have a love for golf.
The two recognized OSU golf players faced weather-related difficulties that affected their skill development to play championship golf year-round, Walt Dennis said.
“Before this facility was planned, our Buckeye golfers had no real option between November and April but to find a warm climate in the South or West and head there,” he said. “It puts them at a terrible disadvantage when the season starts.”
Third-year in sports industry and OSU women’s golf player Claudia Lim said her team faces disadvantages due to colder weather and said the new facility will help counter those challenges.
“This facility has everything we need and will help us to improve significantly during the winter times when we are not able to go onto the course,” Lim said.
One amenity in particular that will likely benefit Lim and her team is an indoor golf hole, which will loosely resemble the 17th green at Scioto Country Club, located in Upper Arlington, Walt Dennis said.
“It will be a kidney-shaped surface with slopes and contours and guarded by two or three sand-filled bunkers,” he said. “They (golfers) will be faced with uphill approaches, downhill approaches, side hill approaches, sand shots of infinite variety and all to an artificial putting surface that will react as would a natural sand-filled outdoor green.”
The facility is also set to contain four different types of grass for players to practice on, a second smaller nylon green for practice putting and a separate 600-square-foot putting laboratory where putting strokes will be “taught, perfected and practiced,” Walt Dennis said.
These feature aren’t the norm, even for schools with indoor facilities, Walt Dennis said.
“In my travels to other universities (Big 10 and others) I have had the opportunity to visit their indoor golf facilities and typically they are nothing more than a series of hitting bays into nets hung from a ceiling and a large flat or slightly rolling practice putting green,” he said. “No more, no less.”
Like Lim, OSU men’s golf team member Sean Busch, a second-year in business, looks forward to the new facility.
“We will be able to hit every shot in golf even if there is a foot of snow outside,” Busch said. “We will have heated bays at the end of our driving range where we will be able to practice full swing, with sensors and cameras to help give us feedback on our swings.”
A previous donation from Jane and Walt Dennis helped build the Walter E. Dennis Sr. Learning Center, a facility aimed at helping college students succeed academically that is housed in the Younkin Success Center.
The Jane and Walt Dennis Golf Performance Center will be located at the OSU Golf Club, which is at 3605 Tremont Road, and would not have been constructed without the Dennis’ donation, Wallenberg said.