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Golf: Cajun golf breaks ground on new facility

The Daily Advertiser, Oct. 25, 2016


UL golf team tosses dirt during the ground breaking ceremony for their indoor teaching facility Monday at Oakbourne Country Club. (Photo: Brad Kemp/RaginCajuns.com)

(L-R)Skylar Petroski,Triston Elston, Jack Tolson, Robert Zepernick, Coach Theo Sliman, Thomas Strandemo, Ryan Desormeaux, Fernando Cruz Valle, Ragnar Gardarsson

UL golf coach Theo Sliman often talks about commitment and support, and now the Ragin’ Cajun program will have brick-and-mortar evidence of both.

UL golf coach Theo Sliman often talks about commitment and support, and now the Ragin’ Cajun program will have brick-and-mortar evidence of both.

Sliman and several others paid homage to many parties Monday at the official groundbreaking of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ first-ever home facility, one that will be located at Oakbourne Country Club.

“These kinds of things don’t just happen,” said Sliman to approximately 100 collected supporters. “This concept started 15 months ago around a table in the grill here at Oakbourne, and since then so many people have been involved in making this happen. It wouldn’t have been a reality without the commitment and support of every one of them.”

The Ragin’ Cajun golf team and Oakbourne will both benefit from that support, as the $600,000 project will provide locker room and office space for the Cajun program, and a state-of-the-art all-weather practice facility for use by both the team and Oakbourne members.

The 4,000-square-foot facility will be located adjacent to the current Oakbourne driving range, and will actually include two separate buildings connected by a breezeway. All will match the architectural style of the nearby Oakbourne clubhouse in local architect and long-time UL supporter Knobbie Langlinais’ design.

The ceremonial first shovels of dirt were turned during Monday’s ceremony at the site, before work is turned over to John and Buzzy Thompson of Thompson Bros. Construction. Target time for completion is six to seven months, meaning that the facility could be done in time for the current Cajuns to complete their spring season in the building.

“We wish that all of the past golfers here would have had this opportunity,” said current Cajun senior golfer Thomas Strandemo, “but going forward we know a lot of them are going to be involved.”

Many former Cajun golfers have already been involved as part of the Vermilion Links club, the support organization for the UL program that began soliciting members earlier this year. That group of 60 founding members raised over $250,000 for the building project.

But it was the lead gift of Oakbourne member and long-time UL golf supporter Brad Mosing, and a matching gift by his father Don Mosing, that provided the bulk of the funds needed for the project.

“This project would not have teed off if not for Brad and his father Don,” said Wayne Elmore, past chairman of the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation (RCAF) and the co-campaign chair for fundraising efforts for UL’s Athletic Master Plan. “Brad had the lead gift, his father matched it and the Vermilion Links came aboard to make it all possible.”

Plans for the facility became public three weeks ago at a press conference at Oakbourne, one that announced the collaboration between the university, the athletic department, the RCAF, the UL Foundation and Oakbourne’s board of directors and membership.

“It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had all of them on board,” said UL director of athletics Scott Farmer, who said that the available funds enabled the golf facility to move from Tier 3 up to Tier 2 on the facilities master plan. “We had to have the vision, the passion and the expertise from all these parties to make this happen.”

The teaching building will include three enclosed and covered hitting bays that can be used rain or shine and in heat or cold, to allow practice in all weather conditions. One will be for use of 26-year Oakbourne head professional Cliff Wagner for his teaching with the membership, and the other two will be used by the Cajun squad.

All three will be geared up with impressive technology, including monitors that will provide numeric readings on dozens of swing variables, and an extensive video-camera program.

“The game has changed so much with all the technology,” said Strandemo, who represented the UL team at the podium Monday. “Players are looking at numbers and visualizing with the cameras. This will allow us to be much more prepared and give us a competitive edge.”

Strandemo also said the much-awaited locker room will be a boost for the squad.

“Winning teams always have great chemistry,” he said. “Having a locker room that we can call our own will be a big part of building that chemistry.”

Near that locker room will be a lobby area to display team history and accomplishments as well as honor those who helped make the facility possible. The coach’s office will overlook the range and facility, and former Cajun player Brett Overman has pledged $50,000 for naming rights and plans to honor former UL coaches Bill and Bob Bass by designating it as “The Coach Bass Office.”

Part of the agreement between the university and Oakbourne provides for active players on the UL roster to be full members of the club along with Sliman and Farmer.

“The members here have been great to us,” Strandemo said. “Many of them have told us that we’re just as much members as they are, and we are very proud of that. It’s a privilege to play here.”