The organization opened the first phase of the project in June 2021, transforming the Waveland Clock Tower into a clubhouse with an indoor golfing simulator and lounge. Additions include chipping and bunker practice areas, two putting greens, an indoor golf simulator and outdoor practice bays.
A cadre of donors and dignitaries took the first putt Sept. 15 on a state-of-the-art short game facility behind the old Waveland Clock Tower in Chicago, Ill., Block Club Chicago reported. The facility adds to the nine-hole Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course.
The $2 million, 60,000-sq.-ft. facility was built and funded by First Tee, a Chicago-based nonprofit that provides programs, coaching and camps for children to learn golf at courses throughout Chicago and its suburbs, Block Club Chicago reported. First Tee opened the first phase of the project in June 2021, transforming the Waveland clock tower into a clubhouse with an indoor golfing simulator and lounge.
Nestled behind the first tee at Marovitz, the new outdoor facility was designed by the Lamar Johnson firm in coordination with former No. 1 golfer Luke Donald, Block Club Chicago reported. It includes chipping and bunker practice areas, two putting greens, an indoor golf simulator and outdoor practice bays.
The facility was built as part of a partnership with the Park District, which allows First Tee to use the space, Block Club Chicago reported. It was privately funded by First Tee donors.
Marovitz also received a new putting green as part of the makeover, as well as a slightly reoriented first tee of its own, designed to angle shots away from the Lakefront Trail, Block Club Chicago reported.
First Tee CEO Lea Jesse called the facility a “watershed moment” for the organization, Block Club Chicago reported. She said she hoped it could be a model for future First Tee facilities at courses throughout Chicago.
“The idea is that this serves as a blueprint for future First Tee facilities,” Jesse said. “We want to do this elsewhere.”
The organization has programs from the Harborside International Golf Center in Pullman to the Robert A. Black golf course in West Ridge and serves approximately 2,000 kids, Block Club Chicago reported.
But this is the first facility that was built exclusively for First Tee, meaning the organization doesn’t have to share it with other golfers, Block Club Chicago reported. And it is designed to have separate stations in which kids can work on different aspects of their game, rotating from putting to chipping and swing practice, providing an all-in-one experience, company leaders said.
“We wanted to be able to work with kids for longer periods of time and to have scheduling flexibility to bring in schools and other youth organizations, like the Boys & Girls Club,” Jesse said. “It gives us a lot more flexibility when we control the space.”
Ald. James Cappleman, Chicago first lady Amy Eschelman, Cubs all-star Ian Happ and donors were on hand for speeches and a ceremonial first putt to launch the facility, Block Club Chicago reported. Happ has been a longtime supporter of First Tee, he said.
“We sat down at a coffee shop in 2018 when Lea first took over, and just the effort since then has been absolutely incredible,” Happ said in a speech. “It’s been a pleasure to be involved.”