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Golf complex to be major addition to Alcorn athletics

[07/02/01] Right now, the land surrounding Jack Spinks Stadium on the campus of Alcorn State University is just pasture and woods.

In a few years, however, Alcorn officials hope the area will be a bustling golf course, alive with cries of “Fore!” as well as those of chirping birds and mooing cows.

The wooded area around the stadium and the school’s dairy will be transformed into the Alcorn State University Golf Center and Youth Learning Academy, a 21-hole, 7,000-yard golf course being built in partnership with the PGA Tour’s “The First Tee” program.

The facility will include a three-hole junior course that will also serve as a practice facility, a driving range, a hiking trail, and a bike path that connects to the Natchez Trace. The entire complex will be the centerpiece of a golf-related curriculum that includes courses in turf management, golf course management and environmental science.

“We’re not just talking about a golf course for the sake of having a golf course. We’re talking about an agri-Golf complex,” Alcorn president Clinton Bristow Jr. said, noting Alcorn’s roots as an agricultural school. “What we want to do is merge the study of the environment with the sport of golf and people’s physical fitness over the course of our lifetimes.”

The First Tee program was developed by the PGA to bring golf to areas where few courses exist. The program helps with new course construction by donating grants up to $100,000, as well as support staff and course designers.

Including Alcorn’s facility, there are currently 98 courses being developed or already developed nationwide by The First Tee. Alcorn is one of only three universities selected for the program, however, and the only site in Mississippi.

“It looked like an excellent opportunity for both parties involved,” said Brandon Johnson, a design coordinator for PGA Tour Design Services Inc., and one of the designers of the Alcorn course. “I think they have an excellent mission, not only for exposing golf to rural Mississippi, but also exposing college students to golf.”

But exposing them to golf isn’t cheap. Alcorn officials estimate the project will cost about $6 million, with all but The First Tee’s grant coming from private fund-raisers.

Dr. Benjamin Kraft, executive director of the Alcorn State Foundation, said fund-raising is just beginning, but he hopes to have a temporary driving range up and running by the fall.

The junior facility would follow, but the entire complex probably wouldn’t be finished for at least three years, Bristow said.

“That’s two years for fund-raising and one for construction,” Bristow said.

Once completed, the course has the potential to be one of the best in the state.

“My first impression was, it’s a beautiful piece of property,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of vegetation that you can carve a golf course out of.”

Kraft said the course is being designed with the idea of hosting NCAA-sanctioned tournaments in mind, and Bristow added that bigger tournaments may follow.

“Realistically speaking, we would like to get to the point where we could host college tournaments and state tournaments,” Bristow said, adding that the course would also accommodate the average weekend hacker. “It will be designed so that golfers can golf and walkers can walk … Even if you can’t play PGA scratch, you can still walk the course.”