NORTH NEWTON, Kan. - In the wee hours of the morning on January 30th, history was made...or rather swung. A club was brought back and cocked by Jaden Schmidt, and energy was released as he made contact with a golf ball and sent it hurdling toward a lit-up projector screen. After a slight pause, a simulated golf ball soared through the air and landed on a fairway, as grins swept across his face along with Head Coach Gregg Dick. Months of work had paid off, and the Esau Golf Training Facility was officially operational.
The Esau Golf Training Facility was the brainchild of Schmidt, who back in the fall semester came up with the beginning pieces to the idea during his internship.
"I'd always hated not being able to work on my game during the winter," explained Schmidt. "I knew a couple other schools in Kansas had a type of indoor practice facility, but nothing like my idea."
Schmidt was in the middle of completing an internship for Dick during the fall, when he brought up his idea.
"Jaden was helping me out with a lot of logistical planning for our season," said Dick. "It's lucky we ran out of things to do or else this may not have been a possibility."
The first obstacle they overcame was where to put it, as anyone familiar with Bethel's campus would know every building serves a purpose and raising an entirely new one would take more than several meetings with several important people.
"We went to Kent Allshouse with the idea and seeking his opinions, and he proposed we use part of the athletics shed where football and track store their equipment," said Schmidt.
Kent Allshouse, the Vice President of Athletics here at Bethel, was all behind the idea and helped the two with securing the space needed for their facility.
"It is fantastic we were able to establish a presence for the Men's Golf team," explained Allshouse. "While it is subtle in it's existence, a place for them to call home is important. This will be a great tool for Coach Dick, and will help the program reach the next step."
With a goal of being operational before February 1st, Schmidt and Dick got to work. Enlisting the help of Schmidt's dad, they built the initial framing of the facility. The facility itself measures 10 feet tall, 16 feet long, and 14 feet wide.
"I first thought it would only take a total of 25 hours of work," explained Schmidt. "I probably worked 20 hours in one week, and realized this would take a bit more time to do it right."
"A lot of volunteering, whether it was physical work or supplies, was offered for this project, and it wouldn't have been possible without all of it," said Dick.
This included the help of the Bethel College Maintenance Department, who ensured the electrical steps were followed properly and safe. Donations of lumber by the Moundridge Lumber Company were used for most of the structure, and a door to the facility was given by Kropf Lumber.
"We also couldn't have made this possible without monetary funding, and to this I'd like to thank the Esau families," said Dick. "Rex and Connie were more than happy to help, as was Rex's brother Todd and his wife Julie. They are all parents of former players in my program, and had a large part of even getting the golf program off the ground years ago."
Schmidt had joked that the facility should be named after himself, but understood the importance the Esau's had in making his dreams a reality.
"I didn't get hung up on the naming rights," joked Schmidt. "I did however make Gregg promise that the first swing belonged to me."
While Schmidt was gone in January on a class trip to South America, Dick put together the final pieces.
"I ordered the projector and the screen we'd use for the simulator, as well as the software itself."
The software powering the simulator is able to track and analyze a player's swing in many different ways. After a player lines up a golf ball on a laser red dot the machine projects, the software takes into account the club speed of the swing, ball speed, the angle of the club on contact, and many other factors in a swing.
"It's impressive," stated Dick. "It opens up the doors for endless possibilities. Of course we will now be able to still hold practice during harsh weather conditions, but the analysis we can create from the simulator is incredible. It should also really draw the attention of future recruits, and I expect to gain an increase of interest in kids down south who maybe aren't used to the weather up here."
After being donated a laptop to use by current player Nathan Gamache, the finishing touches were put into place.
"This is where the entire team came into play. We'd kept it low-key and didn't let the word out too much, but once the structure was put into place and we showed the team, they were obviously very excited," said Dick.
The team spent many hours painting the outsides and insides of the facility, and also helped with attaching the roof.
"We weren't originally going to paint it," said Dick. "I am sure glad we did though, it looks great! Almost everyone on the team who was available helped finish the painting in a short amount of time."
A logo was added on by Brian Krehbiel, the carpet was laid down, and it was finally time to give it a go. The inaugural swing by Schmidt came at 1:00 in the morning on January 30th, the first of many to come. (Pictured below is indeed the first swing).
"I was pumped we could beat our deadline of February 1st! I wanted to be sure I could have as much access to it during my senior year as possible."
After asking the question of whether Schmidt had earned a lifetime pass to use the facility, Dick laughed and said there was no doubt he would have that.
Plaques will be put up to commemorate the generous donations by the Esau family, as well as recognizing the hard work and initiative Schmidt took to make everything come together. An open house for the community will likely happen soon as well.
You can find a complete gallery of pictures on our Facebook page by searching Bethel College Athletics, or by clicking here. The golf team is back in action on Monday and Tuesday, when they compete in the first of two KCAC tournaments at the Terradyne Country Club in Andover.