LAFAYETTE — The rain went away just in time Thursday for Louisiana-Lafayette to cut the ribbon and formally dedicate its new 4,000-square-foot golf facility at Oakbourne Country Club.
But even if the rain hadn’t abated, junior Triston Elston would still have been able to hit the ceremonial first shot out of the all-weather and technology-filled hitting bays that highlight the $600,000 facility. Fittingly, Elston hit a throwback 8-iron that was in coach Theo Sliman’s bag when he played for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“This place gives us every opportunity to succeed,” said Elston, a product of Baton Rouge's Catholic High School who represented his Cajuns teammates in a group that cut the ceremonial red ribbon. “It’s not just playing success. It will give us a great place to interact with the members here and develop relationships that will affect the rest of our lives.”
Thursday’s ceremony was the third attempt at an official opening after rain pushed back the ribbon-cutting twice. The skies were still threatening during the 45-minute ceremony, but UL-Lafayette president Dr. E. Joseph Savoie said the weather wasn’t going to dampen his enthusiasm.
“I was going to go on for about 20 minutes and provide some golf tips,” he said as thunder rumbled. “But I guess I better not do that. I’m going to leave that to the people that know golf.”
Savoie joined Elston, Sliman, UL-Lafayette athletic director Bryan Maggard, UL Foundation president Wayne Elmore, Oakbourne president Kevin Gayle Jr., major donors Don and Brad Mosing, Oakbourne head professional Cliff Wagner and Vermilion Links Club president David Church for the ribbon-cutting.
The Mosings each made a start-up $200,000 contribution toward the facility, and another $250,000 was provided and pledged by the Vermilion Links Club, the official support organization for the program.
“If you spell golf, it starts with a ‘G,’ ” Sliman said. “And today that is for gratitude. It was two years ago this month that (former Oakbourne president Jeff D’Amico), Brad, Cliff and I sat in the grill here at Oakbourne and talked about having a facility like this. But this started a long time before that.”
Sliman was referencing the unique family tree that has led the Cajuns golf program. Longtime coach Bob Bass, the coach on the all-time Sun Belt Conference team, was on hand. His father, Bill, was the program’s first coach and also was one of Oakbourne’s founders. Sliman’s father, Teddy, also served as Cajuns coach.
Construction began in October on the two-building facility. One building includes a locker room, offices, a lobby and other facilities, and the other includes three all-weather hitting bays. Wagner will have use of one of the bays, with the other two reserved for members of the Cajuns.
“With all of this, we’re not just playing a guessing game anymore,” Elston said. “Using all of this technology, there’s always a definite answer when we have a question. And it’s in such a supportive environment here at Oakbourne.”
“We’ve got some great facilities here,” said Maggard, who took over as athletic director earlier this year, “and this clubhouse and facility is no exception. This is going to help us recruit premier talent and help our current student-athletes improve their game and improve themselves.”