UA Golf Facility Opens

John Tyson and Frank Broyles each blasted a drive into the practice range Friday from a hitting bay at the new UA golf facility at Clear Creek Golf Club.

The dream of John Tyson and Frank Broyles became reality Friday as the University of Arkansas' golf facility at Clear Creek Golf Club in Johnson was dedicated.

The facility will house coaching offices and locker rooms for both the men's and women's teams from the University of Arkansas, and also provide an indoor hitting facility for those teams and members from the new Clear Creek Golf Club.

The practice facility with six indoor hitting bays -- one dedicated for elaborate video taping capabilities -- four for the two UA teams.

Like Clear Creek's 18-hole golf course, the practice facility is state of the art, and designed by both architect Robert Trent Jones and noted teacher Peter Kostis.

"This has been a life-long dream of both mine and Coach Broyles," said Tyson, CEO of Tyson Foods and the developer for Clear Creek. "Years ago I played golf with Coach Broyles and heard his vision for our golf programs. His dream was to have a top-flight golf program, but it was handicapped by the facilities and the weather.

"We talked at length about it and I heard him discuss the what ifs of this kind of a facility. The result of that conversation was the facility. It is because of his fortitude that we have this facility. When Coach Broyles sets his mind to something, it is going to happen. We are glad to be a partner in this."

Through a gift from Mary and Fred Smith, the UA was able to partner with Tyson to build the facility.

"I want to express my gratitude both to John and to Mary and Fred Smith," Broyles said. "Thanks to their partnership, we have a facility second to none in the country. I've seen many of them. John and I went to look and we wanted something that would top all of them. We've got that.

"There are some good ones, but ours is better and it's only 10 minutes from campus. We are already seeing the fruits in our recruiting. We just signed the No. 1 player from Texas and our coaches recently heard from the father of the No. 1 player in the nation. He wants to be recruited by Arkansas and a big reason is this facility and this new golf course."

Broyles then teed up the first ball from one of the hitting bays, and fired a drive into the practice range. Tyson followed. Each hit a crisp shot.

Tyson beamed when he discussed the concept of Clear Creek and the practice facility.

"Coach Broyles has done such a wonderful job providing for great facilities on our campus, from the gymnastics building to Bud Walton to the football stadium to the baseball and track facilities," Tyson said. "We wanted to do something like that for golf.

"For me, it has been a passion. I've wanted something like this for some time. Personally, it's a place for me to come and clear my head after work. You need someplace where you can forget about things. I'm just so happy for the university to have something like this."

Tyson joked that the four hitting bays for the university teams really won't be fully available for the players.

"We know with Coach Broyles, one of them will be gone most of the time," Tyson said. "In reality what we have is three for the team members and one for Coach Broyles."

Indeed, Coach Broyles has the first locker in the men's dressing quarters. There are also lockers for Houston Nutt, John Daly and Hal Sutton. The latter has long funded a scholarship for men's golf.

Tyson pointed at the practice facility with massive practice tees and two putting greens (one with bent grasses, one with bermuda) with special pride.

"Peter Kostis says that most practice ranges don't help you learn different swings and different distances," Tyson said. "We have a facility that gives you instant feedback for distances. We'll have laser feedback so you'll know how far you are hitting it. You will be able to tell by how the ball bounces because of the slopes whether or not you are short or long of your target.

"There is a practice green directly in front of you that is very wide with lots of pins and traps in front that you can work on the 80-yard scoring shots. It's only 5 yards deep. Peter says that if you can't land it within a 5-yard landing area that you can't play on the big tour."

The UA men's team was not at the dedication, since it was finishing its final round in the Taylor-Made Classic in Hawaii. Another dedication is planned in the spring when the course and practice facility greens when Mary and Fred Smith will attend.

Smith is the president of the Reynolds Foundation, the group that provided the major gift for the upgrade of Reynolds Razorback Stadium. However, Broyles noted that the gift for the golf facility was a personal donation by the Smiths and not from the Reynolds Foundation.

John Tyson and Frank Broyles visit at the dedication of the UA golf factility at Tyson's Clear Creek Golf Course.

The lockers in the facility are beautiful cherry wood.

Photos by Clay Henry

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