NORMAL — There was no hesitation in Zach Burry’s voice.
“I’ll be sore tomorrow for sure,” he said.
Handling freshly cut bundles of sod, some weighing up to 70 pounds, was testing muscles Burry doesn’t use every day. The Illinois State senior-to-be didn’t mind.
He realized Friday’s manual labor will benefit him and everyone else connected with ISU golf.
Members of the Redbird men’s and women’s teams, as well as golfers from University High School, were busy helping Weibring Golf Club Superintendent Travis Williams and his staff cut, transport and lay sod for a new green and chipping area at ISU’s practice facility.
Designed by the company co-owned by the face of ISU golf — longtime PGA and Champions Tour professional D.A. Weibring — the green will be contoured and surrounded by slopes and a variety of grasses.
The goal was to build a practice area that could “create every shot you could ever need on a golf course,” Williams said.
“D.A. is a tremendous asset for us,” Williams said. “He brings that world-class experience.
“We’ll have bent grass, we have bluegrass. We’ll have different heights of cut whether it’s fairway height, green height, rough height. We’ll even have some real tall stuff. What that will help us create is any lie — uphill, downhill, sidehill — on any turf they could come across on a golf course.”
Weibring is a proponent of ISU’s golfers giving back to the program. On Friday, that meant men’s coach Ray Kralis and his players were cutting sod at a section of the practice facility’s large tee area and loading it for transport to the new green.
While the green itself will be seeded, the area surrounding it was all to be sodded. ISU women’s coach Darby Sligh and her players were raking the areas to be sodded, with U High players and boys coach Darrin York unloading sod for placement by Williams’ staff.
“We had heard from Darby that her girls wanted more putting practice with slopes,” Weibring said from his Dallas-area home. “We heard from the guys they wanted more pitching and chipping practice with contours. We kind of blended the two together.
“We wanted to be sure the slopes weren’t too severe for Travis to be able to maintain them. I think it’s all going to come together. It is topping on the cake to have those kids out there working it.”
No one appreciated the help more than Williams. He said he and his staff were “invested” and “excited” about the project, but added, “It’s a big undertaking.”
“Having them (the players) here, it’s the only way we could possibly do it,” Williams said. “It can’t be overstated how important it is to have them involved in it.”
ISU athletic director Larry Lyons called it “sweat equity.”
“This is money that's been raised to support the golf programs. They actually may be putting that sod down where they will be chipping, or they’re part of the rake team,” Lyons said at the site. “It gives them a little different perspective on this part of the project.
“D.A. has always been big on the golf teams taking ownership in the golf course … their need to provide some of the labor to make the course better. Today is a good example of them doing that.”
At one point, Caitlin Sims removed her golf glove to shake hands. Normally wrapped around a 3-wood or 6-iron, on this day it was on the business end of a rake.
“With everything the golf course and the program do for us, it’s nice to give back and know that I helped be a part of it,” said Sims, a junior-to-be on the ISU women’s team.
“Keeping stats and seeing where we lack, this is it. When we get into courses that have big slopes, that’s where we see it. Something like this will be a game changer for the entire program.”
That in mind, ISU men’s standout Trent Wallace said, “We want to get it done as soon as possible.” Wallace, who will be a junior, qualified for the NCAA Championship this past season and is eager to expand his practice opportunities.
“Any shot we want to hit … full shot, short shot, half shot, we’ll have it right in front of us,” he said. “If we need to practice anything, we’ll have the resources to do it.”
Swinging a club Saturday may be a challenge. Burry, et al, may have to give the muscles a day to recuperate.
“I’ve laid sod before, but I’ve never done the actual work of cutting it, lifting it and hauling it,” he said. “It’s pretty tough.”