Why raise the bar when you can set a new one?
That's the question Georgia Southern golf coach Larry Mays asked when it came to the team's practice facilities after he arrived in 2001, and Wednesday morning at the ribbon cutting of the Bennett-Ramsey Golf Center, that question was answered in the form of a revolutionary new home for GSU golf.
In 2001, president of the Georgia Southern Athletic Foundation, John Mulherin, said he asked Mays if there was anything he needed to be successful.
Mays had a simple request.
"He said, ‘We need a facility.' He drew this facility on a piece of paper - a napkin - and it really came from that," said Mulherin. "We looked at every piece of property in Bulloch County within a 10-mile radius of the school, and after a lot of trials and tribulations ended up with this piece of property."
The effort has paid off. The center houses a clubhouse, a dedicated practice putting green, a three-green, short-game area, a two-tier practice tee, a driving range and three practice holes. Located on the property is the 7,700 square-foot Howard House which is home to the coaches' offices, team locker room, conference room, kitchen, team lounge, indoor putting lab, club-repair area and study lounge.
"The ‘wow' factor when they turn that corner onto Hood Rd., a dirt road, and all of a sudden you see that big white clubhouse," said Mays about the effect the place has on visitors, including potential future players. "Then you see how well it's designed and how many shots you can hit out here, and it's allowed us to bring in top-notch recruits."
Some of the south's finest programs have taken note of the facility. In fact, some are trying to emulate Georgia Southern in an effort to make their own practice facilities more functional.
"A lot of coaches came out and looked at it," Mays said. "I already know two facilities that have been built or are being built that copied our blue print almost exactly. The University of Tennessee, they came out here and took about 1,000 pictures when they were developing theirs, and Chattanooga - their facilities eerily resemble this."
The program picked an opportune time to host the ribbon cutting, as GSU is preparing for this weekend's Schenkel E-Z-Go Invitational to be held at Forest Heights Country Club. The annual event always features the nation's top talent, and this year is no exception.
Georgia Southern hosts South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, North Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana State, North Carolina State, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Louisville, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
The Schenkel tees off Friday morning at 9 a.m. and will continue through Sunday.
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.