URBANA — The carving of an ‘I’ can nonetheless be seen from above the sunflower fields within the Stone Creek neighborhood adjoining to what’s going to quickly seemingly be referred to as Atkins Golf Membership at College of Illinois.
These sunflowers, planted by The Atkins Group, have now wilted with the arrival of fall, and elements of the golf course have been chopped up in anticipation of a brand new and improved course set to open subsequent yr.
“From the skin, it seems to be like we’re chewing up the course,” mentioned Illinois’ assistant athletic director for golf operations, Jackie Szymoniak. “However we’re chewing it as much as have it in higher situation transferring ahead. It’s a contradiction to what you’d suppose.”
In June, The Atkins Group donated the course together with some surrounding land to the college. The UI’s athletic division will personal and function the golf course.
When it’s completed, which might presumably occur subsequent summer time, Szymoniak mentioned it is going to be longer, to make it nearer to a “championship course” on the collegiate stage.
The bunkers are being redone, the fairways can be narrowed, and the course is being aerated to make it sooner and firmer, she mentioned. The trick is making it a course that’s difficult and lengthy sufficient for school gamers with out irritating on a regular basis golfers.
“You need it to be enjoyable for everyone,” she mentioned. “We wouldn’t wish to construct one thing that’s so laborious for our group members however not enjoyable in any respect for most people to play.”
A $5 million reward from an nameless donor final month will go a great distance towards realizing that imaginative and prescient, together with assist from a course architect.
Fortunately, the UI isn’t ranging from behind. Overgrown golf programs can take years to return to their regular state.
Even within the months after The Atkins Group introduced it might now not be working the previous Stone Creek Golf Course, it maintained the course although for a time it regarded as if it could be become a nature reserve.
“We have been lucky that when the conversations began up with The Atkins Group, that they began mowing fairways and brush, and the fundamental functions of fungicides and herbicides,” Szymoniak mentioned. “(If there have been) no upkeep by any means, we might have had a large number on our arms, however fortunately we have been capable of preserve that intact and we have been capable of set ourselves as much as be in a great place to start out.”
As for whether or not a area of sunflowers will line one of many fairways on the course within the years going ahead, Szymoniak wasn’t certain.
Even when it was only for a yr, the favored sunflowers served an vital function.
“What a cool factor,” Szymoniak mentioned, “to have individuals coming into the neighborhood and absorbing just a little little bit of pleasure amidst a lot gloom.”