GOLF

“Every child will have better experiences”

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LAKEVIEW — Brianna Rostescu tried many sports when she was younger, but golf is the one that stuck, her mother said.

Nine years later, the 16-year-old – along with a group of donors and dignitaries – won the first putt Thursday on a state-of-the-art short game facility behind the old Waveland clock tower. The facility is in addition to the nine-hole Sydney R. Marovitz golf course, 3701 N. Recreation Drive, where Rostescu learned the game.

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“It looks awesome,” Rostescu said. “And I remember when I was younger I was playing on Marovitz. To see that now is just amazing. It’s surreal.

The $2 million, 60,000 square foot facility was built and funded by First Tee, a Chicago-based nonprofit that offers programs, workouts and camps for kids like Rostescu to learn the golf on courses throughout Chicago and its suburbs.

Credit: Noah Asimow/Block Club Chicago
PJ Croke, 2½, lines up a shot at First Tee’s new putt and chip center outside the old Waveland clock tower.

First Tee opened the first phase of the project in June 2021, converting the Waveland clock tower into a clubhouse with an indoor golf simulator and lounge.

Nestled behind Marovitz’s first tee, the new outdoor facility was designed by the firm Lamar Johnson in coordination with former No. 1 golfer Luke Donald. It includes chipping and bunker practice areas, two practice greens, an indoor golf simulator and outdoor practice cabins.

The facility was built in partnership with the Park District, which allows First Tee to use the space. It was funded by private First Tee donors.

Marovitz also received a new green as part of the renovation, along with a slightly re-oriented first tee, designed to direct shots away from the Lakefront Trail.

Credit: Noah Asimow/Block Club Chicago
Putting greens at the First Tee Outdoor Putt and Chip Center near Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course.
Credit: Noah Asimow/Block Club Chicago
First Tee elected officials, donors and leaders make a first putt to open the nonprofit’s outdoor putt and chip center near Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course.

First Tee CEO Lea Jesse called the installation a “watershed moment” for the organization. She said she hoped it could be a model for future First Tee installations in Chicago yards.

“The idea is that this serves as a model for future First Tee installations,” Jesse said. “We want to do that elsewhere.

The organization offers programs from the Harborside International Golf Center in Pullman to the Robert A. Black Golf Course in West Ridge and serves approximately 2,000 children.

But it’s the first facility that’s been built exclusively for First Tee, meaning the organization doesn’t have to share it with other golfers. And it’s designed to have separate stations where kids can work on different aspects of their game, from putting practice to chipping and swing practice, providing an all-in-one experience, executives said. of the company.

“We wanted to be able to work with kids for longer periods of time and have flexibility of schedule to bring in schools and other youth organizations, like the Boys And Girls Club,” Jesse said. “It gives us a lot more flexibility when controlling the space.”

Aldus. James Cappleman (46th), Chicago First Lady Amy Eschelman, Cubs star Ian Happ and donors were on hand Thursday for speeches and a ceremonial first putt to kick off the facility. Happ is a longtime supporter of First Tee, he said.

“We sat in a cafe in 2018 when Lea first took over, and the efforts since then have been absolutely amazing,” Happ said in a speech. “It’s been a pleasure to be involved.”

Credit: Noah Asimow/Block Club Chicago
Brianna Rostescu, 16, speaks during the opening of the First Tee Outdoor Putt and Chip Center at 3701 N. Recreation Drive on September 15, 2022.

Rostescu started playing golf with First Tee when she was 7 years old and has since become a junior coach. In a speech, she said the sport taught her everything from respecting her peers to learning to laugh when she missed a 2ft putt. She hopes to play in college.

“First Tee gave me so many opportunities,” Rostescu told Block Club. “I feel like every child will have an even better experience with this facility. And not only that, they will learn to love the game more.”

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