Just to the side of the main Patten Gymnasium entrance stands an inconspicuous door with a keypad lock, marked only by a small “Wildcats Golf” sticker. Inside is a hidden treasure in the world of Northwestern athletics: the Gleacher Golf Center.
It gives the teams a rare recruiting advantage over warm weather schools, helping attract top recruits and allowing players to practice regardless of windchill.
“People want to come to Northwestern because it’s such a great school and we’ve got a great history developing players,” says Pat Goss, the former head coach of the men’s team for 18 seasons who was promoted last summer to director of golf and player development. “But the first question is always, ‘What about the winter?’”
With the Gleacher Center, the team has an answer to that question. It’s a place where student-athletes can chip, putt and relax during brutal winter months, according to Goss. The facility includes a 2,400-square-foot green to practice both putting and chipping, a sand trap to practice bunker shots, a video room outfitted with specialized lighting, a locker area and a players’ lounge.
These features have helped the program attract top golfers to Northwestern, including multiple All-Americans, players who have gone on to the PGA or European tours after graduating and even 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, who left after a quarter to focus on his professional career.
“Even from the very beginning it’s been a huge tool in recruiting,” says head coach David Inglis. “It attracts kids to stay in the Midwest and allows them to practice and improve their golf year-round.”
The team’s most well-known alum, former world No. 1 Luke Donald, won the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship months after the Gleacher Center opened in January 1999.
“That was not coincidental,” Goss says.