A couple of years ago, when Gilbert Williams Field built a field house next to the football stadium, Rick Miles, the only boys golf coach the school has had since it opened, kept asking athletic director Darrell Stangle, “Where’s the golf room?”
Miles was given the field house’s storage room, where golf carts were going to be stationed.
“He showed it to me and I was like, ‘Done, we’ll take it,’ ” Miles said.
Once just concrete flooring and brick walls, Miles got help from players and parents to paint the room the school colors red and black. A student painted the Black Hawks logo on the wall. Turf was added with the big screen that features Torrey Pines Golf Course for the simulator.
“I did some serious fundraising,” Miles said. “Here we are. It’s only one day. But it’s a start.”
Every Monday, this is Williams Field’s golfers’ practice facility. The 10 boys golfers get out of class, walk over to the field house, pull out their clubs, and go to work, driving shots into the screen. There also is a big hitting net outside into which they rocket shots. A putting green was added this summer behind the field house.
Groups of three, three and four golfers alternate from station to station, including the weight room. This has been helpful during a season in which Williams Field’s home golf course isn’t available due to seeding.
Ben Carr, the team’s top golfer and among the top five in the state, uses a 7-iron to drive the ball into the screen, right down the fairway between the simulated trees, about 160 yards.
“It’s fun to know how far you hit it,” Carr said. “It’s very accurate. You’re getting right numbers. It’s also fun to take a driver and hit it and know the exact distance it will go.”
Williams Field’s boys golf team captured its first Division II state golf championship in 2021. This year, unable to use its home course due to seeding, the school has been helped by Ocotillo Golf Club in Chandler and Toka Sticks Golf Club in Mesa a couple of days a week.
Miles isn’t a certified teaching pro, but he does the best he can with technology to give kids what they need to be the best they can be. Top golfers have their own swing coaches. Carr calls Miles a great “strategist.”
Miles also knows how to fundraise. He said winning state two years ago helped. It gave people more incentive to donate. The simulator room with all the bells and whistles, Miles said, ended up costing about $16,000.
Williams Field isn’t the only high school that has a golf simulator room. Brophy Prep, a private Jesuit school in central Phoenix, has two golf rooms. But it doesn’t have a putting green. Miles believes Williams Field might be the only high school in Arizona with its own putting green.
By raising funds for the putting green, Miles said he was able to get a couple of hitting nets. But only one is being used on this particular Monday.
“One of the coaches parked in the other area where he we would set up the other one, so I don’t think he wants golf balls peppered on the windshield,” Miles said. “We’re going to let that one go today.”
In the sim room, Miles can only have one golfer inside at a time because of space limitations. It still is used for storage. There also is a mini refrigerator to store water for the golfers during their workout.
“All we need is a couch back there,” Miles said.
Before entering the sim room for the first time this season, Miles asked his newer players how far they thought they hit a 7-iron. When they get to the simulator, they quickly find out how far they actually hit it.
Freshman Benjamin Bui, one of the team’s top golfers, said he still is getting used to high school competition. But the sim room helps. He’s worked with it before with his private coach.
“It’s like a good practice day,” Bui said. “You work out. You go to the putting green. And you go hit. It’s kind of nice.”
Miles said his next fund-raising project will be to add three more courses to the simulator, including Pebble Beach and St. Andrews.
“They like coming in here,” Miles said. “I toyed with putting a bunker out here to get some sand work in. But I was afraid of the liability.”
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Williams Field High School offering unique golf experience to students