Practice spots for golfers plentiful

Chico State golfer Lee Gearhart swings earlier this year. Photo credit: Emily Teague

“Practice makes perfect” is something we hear said about every sport, but it’s especially true for golf, where just a few feet can be the difference between having a birdie putt or hitting into a hazard.

Fortunately even in a smaller town like Chico, the local golf courses, both public and private, are happy to give members of the Chico State teams access to its practice facilities.

“Everyone in town has been great towards us; Canyon Oaks, Butte Creek, Bidwell Park, Peach Tree, Sevillano Links and of course, Skyway give our team access to their course throughout the season for practice and qualifying matches,” said T.L. Brown, Chico State’s men’s golf coach.

Even though the first tournament of their season isn’t until September 29 in Goodyear, Arizona, members of the team will be getting back into Chico and hitting the range at Skyway Golf Park. They will also be working on their short games on the putting green at Bidwell Park. These are just two of the public golf courses in Chico.

Skyway Golf Park is a par 3 only golf course with a full driving range and putting green that is run by Chico State’s assistant golf coach Steve Brown. The entire facility has stadium-style lighting to play golf late into the warm Chico summer nights.

“We see players off the Chico State team out here three or four days a week during the season,” said Tom Pyeatt, the Canyon Oaks County Club’s assistant golf professional.

Canyon Oaks is a full 18-hole private golf course located in California Park, the residential neighborhood off of Highway 32. The course has a full driving range, a putting green and a separate chipping green with practice bunkers.

Bidwell Park Golf Course is the oldest golf course in town and is open every day to the public. Although it doesn’t have a driving range, it does have a big putting green with a practice bunker in the middle to work on bunker shots.

The Chico State players frequently practice there with former Chico State player, assistant coach and new interim coach of the Chico State women’s team Nick Green. Green has spent over a decade with the Chico State golf program and also gives private lessons by appointment at Bidwell Park.

“Anybody with a Chico State student ID can play with the walking rate of $12 or $24 anytime any day with a cart, and we see someone from the Chico State team practicing here nearly every day on the putting green,” said Courtney Foster, Bidwell Park’s general manager.

Bidwell also hosts the Chico City Championship in September. The final 32 players who move on to the match-play portion of the tournament seem to always include six or seven members of the Chico State team. That includes returning first team All-American Lee Gearhart, who in 2011 won the Chico City Championship to become the event’s youngest winner in over 50 years.

Kevin Lucena can be reached at [email protected] or @klucena824 on Twitter.