Those who have ventured inside Payne Whitney Gymnasium in the past month or so might have noticed a big change on the second floor. What used to be a barren storage room with broken tiles and abandoned refrigerators is now slated to become the new David Paterson Golf Technology Center, named in honor of the head coach of Yale men’s golf team.
Through the large glass window that opens onto the new indoor golf center, those who pass by it will be able to see the new technology installed in the room.
The most distinctive aspect of the new equipment will be a virtual golf simulator, which will project images of a fairway, green or full golf course onto a screen, men’s golf team member Tom Ginakakis ’09 said. Players will be able to hit golf balls towards the projected image, and high-speed cameras and computer programs will monitor rate, spin and trajectory, displaying the flight of the ball on the screen.
Although the facility and virtual-reality features will not perfectly simulate the experience of a real driving range, having some way for players to work on their swings is better than not practicing at all during the winter months, members of the golf team said. The chief purpose of the new facility is to keep clubs in their hands during the interlude between their short fall and spring seasons, several players said.
Colby Moore ’09 said such a long time without practice during the winter leads to an attrition of players’ skills, and the new facility will give players the opportunity to refine their swings and work on correcting their faults.
“Instead of sitting idle during the winter, we can stay sharp and still work on our games,” he said. “It won’t revolutionize our game, but it’ll keep us sharp so that getting back from the long break between two seasons isn’t as arduous as it normally is.”
The technology will be able to simulate different wind conditions — a feature that is particularly useful since the Bulldogs practice in conditions windier than those at most schools. Players can also work on their swings by hitting real golf balls — instead of just waffle balls — in the hitting bays and measure weight distribution of the ball on a weight board.
Beyond this new technology is the name behind the new facility — David Paterson, who will be retiring after 32 seasons as the men’s golf head coach.
“Coach Paterson has really made Yale Golf into what it is today,” Ginakakis said.” He’s had such an influence on the program, and there’s really no other name that would be suitable for our new facility.”
Paterson, who was born in Scotland, came to New Haven in 1975 and became director and general manager of the Yale golf course, which was then running on deficit.
“The challenge of putting the Yale golf course on the map really attracted me to the job,” Paterson said. “Coaching was not part of the job description, but being a teacher is a principle of my profession to me, so I told them that I’d take the job if I could coach.”
For 30 years, Paterson has dedicated his time to managing the course, as well as coaching and mentoring the players on the men’s team. He also founded and coached the women’s team for six years.
“He’s a fascinating man with insights both on and off the course,” Ginakakis said. “He proves that golf leads to lots of interesting stories.”
After guiding the Bulldogs program for more than 30 years, Paterson will be retiring this year.
“I think it’s time for some new blood — programs need new regeneration,” Paterson said. “I’m not going to be looking over the shoulder of my successor, but I’ll still be around looking over the lads to see that they keep the ball in play.”
Paterson said he has been working on getting funding for the new facility over the past three years. He said he was able to raise approximately half a million dollars through private donations from alumni of the golf program.