John Fields wants to make Omni La Costa the Omaha of college golf. Here’s how he plans to do it

CARLSBAD, Calif. — John Fields’ eyes light up when he starts talking about the College World Golf Championships Foundation. He looks at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa like a little kid looks at an ice cream cone. Fields has visions of what’s to come. Now it’s just about making it happen.

Fields has seen plenty during his career. He has won multiple championships and been around dozens of world-class players during his tenure at Texas.

However, it’s this project that makes the 65-year-old golf coach jovial, beaming with pride.

Omni La Costa’s North Course underwent an extensive renovation by Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner before the layout began a three-year contract hosting the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships starting last Thursday with the women and beginning Friday with the men. Fields never wants the championships to leave, instead creating a “Road to Omni La Costa” similar to college baseball’s “Road to Omaha.”

The College World Series is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. By creating the College World Golf Championships Foundation, Fields believes he, his daughter April Workman, the foundation’s executive director, and the board of directors can do the same with college golf, making Omni La Costa a permanent venue for the NCAA Golf Championships and making the event feel like a PGA Tour or LPGA event.

“I want it to be an unbelievable experience from a player’s perspective,” Fields, the foundation’s president, said. “How do you get people to care about them? Get 10,000 people out here. We can have skyboxes around the 16th green. What a great place this is, and no one even knows it.”

The College World Golf Championships Foundation didn’t even get its 501(c)(3) non-profit status until April 26, which is when the foundation could begin raising money.

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The plan? Texas will remain the host institution for the future, as Creighton is for the CWS. However, it will be the College World Golf Championships Foundation which assists the NCAA in running the tournament and underwrite the costs of the tournament moving forward.

Fields said the foundation hopes to work with donors and former players, such as past college stars Sam Burns, Collin Morikawa and numerous others, to give back to the foundation. The idea for College World Golf Championships Foundation began more than four years ago, and now, it’s here.

“I’m hoping, God willing, that we’re able to really make this happen in a big way,” Fields said. “Take it to a whole different level and be consistent. Develop records out here, develop iconic shots on TV.

“There’s only one place like this.”

Another factor is the San Diego weather, which during late May averages highs between 65 and 70 degrees with cloudy skies in the morning clearing out by the afternoon. There’s low chances of rain or bad weather, which means the two weeks of championships can go on without delays, an important factor when deciding where to host weeks-long events.

This first year is a test run for NCAAs, though La Costa is no stranger to hosting big-time events. The PGA Tour and LPGA have both played events at La Costa numerous times. However, NCAAs is a different beast, as the resort is hosting all of the athletes on site.

Every coach Golfweek has spoken with during the NCAA Championships thus far has thought it was a positive to be on-site. Instead of having to load up a van and haul the players and equipment to the course, they’re able to walk five minutes and get a quick range session in.

The resort remains open for guests not associated with the tournament, and the South Course has some play ongoing, though the holes directly adjacent to the North Course are closed so there are no disruptions.

Some coaches like the idea of having a permanent site. Others want the championships to travel around, though the NCAA seems to have adopted the three-year model for hosting. From a logistics standpoint, it helps having infrastructure for a tournament staying in one spot for three years instead of moving around every 12 months.

At Omni La Costa, plenty of renovations, from the course to resort rooms itself, changes are being made to entice the NCAA to make the resort the permanent home of the championships.

Fields knows there’s a big hill to climb. As he comes close to the end of his legendary coaching career, his next chapter is already underway. He has been in contact with the USGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour and First Tee, trying to garner support for what the College World Golf Championships Foundation is hoping to achieve.

“I want this to work so bad,” Fields said, “but I know we have work to do.”

With the first week in the books at Omni La Costa, the venue is off to a good start hosting the NCAA Championships. In Fields’ vision, it’s just the beginning of what’s to be a partnership well into the future.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek