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Renovations pave way for USF golf

Sitting on 120 acres of preserved land and protected wetlands, The Claw at USF golf course is undergoing extensive rebuilding of all 18 greens, which began in May.

The Claw is a public-access golf course managed by Billy Casper Golf (BCG), and a host of the USF men’s and women’s golf teams.

The course is open during construction, as temporary greens have been built to accommodate golfers. However, USF’s golf teams have been practicing at local golf courses because of the unsatisfactory conditions at The Claw.

“The conditions are absolutely horrible,” said USF women’s golf coach Marci Kornegay. “We have all been looking at the property across the street and we knew that there was no way we could practice or compete there.”

USF Athletics Director Doug Woolard and the golf program used funds from the teams’ foundation accounts to pay for the first stage of renovations.

“Until this point, we have not had the opportunity to spend money from our foundation accounts on any big-ticket items, but this is really what we have been waiting for, “Kornegay said. “I can only hope this is phase one of many.”

The course-enhancement plan — crafted by USF and BCG — calls for rebuilding all the greens and installing Champion Bermuda grass.

Even bigger changes are underway, however.

“For over a year, even before talk about replacing the greens arose, (men’s golf coach) Jim Fee and I worked closely on designing a plan to include practice facilities,” Kornegay said. “Everything fell into place and now we will be able to improve the short game (facility), which consists of wedging and putting about 120 yards in.”

Fee said that once the practice facility’s renovations are complete, it will only be open to the USF golf teams and will help the team with many different aspects of the game.

As far as a phase two, the golf program hopes to build a golf house that includes team locker rooms, coaching offices, indoor hitting bays and several other amenities for USF teams.

General Manager Adam Combs explained the importance of The Claw, not only to USF but to the community as well.

“We are technically a state golf course, which means we operate in large part for the public, as well as serving the USF golf program,” he said.

Since its establishment in 1968, The Claw has been one of the Tampa area’s most challenging public courses, Combs said, but its conditions have tarnished its reputation.

“We really wanted to get The Claw back to the level it needed for a competitive college team, and to give the public golfers a modern product that places us above our competition,” he said.

The Claw has only undergone one other major change in the past decade, when a new irrigation system was installed eight years ago.

“The goal of these renovations is to improve the entire facility, not just the greens,” Combs said. “These changes have been set in place to give the USF golf program and the public a course that they can be proud of.”

That goal supports the ambitions of the USF golf program as well.

“These changes are really the first step to fulfilling our desires to be top contenders for a national championship,” Kornegay said.

Additional reporting by Mike Wilson and Phil Neary