Being a golfer in Chicago is a challenge. The frigid winter weather prohibits you from practicing, and golfers who don’t practice everyday don’t succeed on the course.
So, how do Loyola’s golf teams stay sharp during the winter? If it’s warm enough, they go out to the course just like they do during the season. If it’s not, they either head to the practice green inside Gentile Arena or to Centennial Forum to hit into a net — or they go to a computer. But it’s not just any computer.
On the second floor of Centennial Forum, the golf program has a computer that simulates a driving range and nine- or 18- hole courses. They can play anywhere from St. Andrews in Scotland to the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, which is where the women’s team will begin play on Feb. 26.
The simulator is a projector hooked up to a computer. After a player hits a regulation ball into a screen, the computer registers the motion of the ball and simulates where it would go in a real golfing situation. It tells the distance, direction and the amount of spin put on the ball.
Men’s head coach and director of golf Erik Hoops said the simulator, which costs between $65,000 and $85,000 and was donated to the program, wasn’t around when he played for Loyola from 2008 to 2012. Now that the program has it, he can use the features for more than just hitting balls into a screen.
“When I look back to when I was a student-athlete here, our indoor facility wasn’t even close to what we have now,” said Hoops. “Now, it’s nice to have these other added bonuses so [I], as a coach, can use them more as a teaching tool.”
Hoops also said winter training is important because he can work with the athletes more than he can otherwise, as they don’t work with their personal coaches as much during the colder months.
“Over the summer, they’re off doing stuff with their own coaches at home,” Hoops said. “So, this is my three or four months out of the year where I can work with them on some of the stuff I feel they can get better on.”
Sophomore Orion Yamat said the simulator has helped him keep his scores low, although he doesn’t use it for his long game as much as he does for his mid-irons and wedges.
“What I use it mostly for is … inside 150 yards,” said Yamat, “which is really good for scoring, because you have to be really accurate with those distances [and] that’s how you get close to the flag and get tap-in birdies.”
On the women’s side, sophomore Elayna Bowser said while the team has their mandatory workouts, the simulator is open to the team whenever they want.
“[We practice inside] a mandatory three days a week, but you can come in any day,” said Bowser. “I like to come in here every day.”
Women’s head coach Carly Schneider — a Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) certified coach — said the drills she does with the team depends on the golfers’ abilities.
“A lot of the stuff I do caters to their swings and what they need,” said Schneider. “Right now, I’m picking their brains on what they did over winter break.”
She said she will add some competitive aspects to the workouts.
“In the other hitting room, I’m going to … get some tape and put targets on the net,” she said, “so that we can do a H.O.R.S.E. game.”
Until the weather warms up enough, the golfers will get plenty of reps on the simulator before they start the spring portion of the season. The women will head to Kiawah Island, South Carolina, Feb. 26-28 and the men will go to Dallas, Texas, March 13-14.