Kim Lewellen and Bowen Sargent couldn’t hide their smiles during a special event Monday night officially announcing the rebuild of Birdwood Golf Course, home of the University of Virginia men’s and women’s golf teams.
Lewellen and Sargent, coaches of those two teams, have been dreaming about this for years as collegiate golf has outgrown Birdwood, which was built in 1984.
Pat Hogan, executive vice president and COO of UVa, introduced Davis Love III, whose golf architectural firm will handle the job, to a crowd of golfing enthusiasts and supporters during a program at Boar’s Head.
Love III, captain of the United States Ryder Cup team, was on hand to talk about the redesign and what it can do to help Virginia’s golf programs.
“It’s exciting to take a great golf course and make it better,” Love said. “As a former college player, and watching the college process with my son the last five years, and watching him play for Alabama, and watching so many other college teams play, I know what [UVa] needs to get these high schoolers to come to the University of Virginia.”
Hogan said that after fundraising, more design work, and permitting is finished, hopefully by this time next year, he will turn the course over to the Love design team.
“We will likely close [Birdwood] down for a year, and the goal will be to re-open the new golf course in the fall of 2019,” Hogan said.
Meanwhile, Love and the University of Virginia Foundation unveiled some early renderings of a new course. Bill Goodwin, outgoing rector at UVa, and a passionate golfer himself, said that he recommended a “new” golf course, and that’s what the new Birdwood will be.
Virtually every hole on the course will be changed, according to renderings, with several holes being eliminated, and replaced by new ones on some of the expansive land on the property. Meanwhile, Birdwood will add a short course and a new, large practice area for all golfers, and a facility that will serve as the home of UVa’s two golf teams.
“I’m really excited about both of these projects,” said Sargent, whose team recently posted a 10th-place finish in the NCAA Championships, the program’s highest finish in its history. “Fifteen years ago, we kind of started this project, so for me, it is an exciting time to see the building come to fruition along with the golf course. I’m really excited to see what Davis is going to do.”
Lewellen, whose women’s team won the ACC championship two seasons ago, is also thrilled with the plans.
“Recruiting-wise, the up and coming are used to seeing state-of-the-art training facilities and practice facilities,” Lewellen said. “We are behind in these areas. We have a phenomenal university and athletic department but we don’t have those golf facilities that recruits are accustomed to seeing.
“They come here and they’re not sure if they can get better,” Lewellen said. “We’ve got to have that. That’s what they want.”
Hogan said that philanthropy plays a key role in any such project at Virginia and that fundraising will be a key component over the next year.
“The good news is that we already have a significant commitment for an elite gift, so we’re well on our way,” Hogan said.
Love is excited about the project because he realizes how much a new course will help Virginia’s program and the university in general. He used John Paul Jones Arena as an example of what a top-shelf facility can do.
“You want the top facilities for the basketball team so it can prepare and play well, and then to also get more good basketball players,” Love said. “They want to go to the University of Virginia for the school, and they also want to go because UVa has great facilities, and great coaches, and they think, ‘I can become a better basketball player and have a better chance of winning ACC championships, or playing in the NCAAs, or making it to the pros.'
“If we can build that for the golf team, then everybody in the university benefits from it,” Love said. “You have a great golf course, great facilities, a great reputation. It’s a win-win for everybody. First comes who is going to use it, and that’s not only the golf team, but the supporters of the golf team, and supporters of the university that stay at the [Boar’s Head] resort. It trickles down to everybody.”
More details of the new Birdwood will appear in other editions of The Daily Progress this week, along with a profile of Love, the man behind the project.
Sargent perhaps summed up the evening in a single, short thought.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Cavalier,” Sargent said. “I can’t wait to see what comes next.”