Eastern Mennonite University has announced that it will be adding men’s and women’s golf programs, starting with the 2012-13 season.
Both men and women will compete as sponsored Old Dominion Athletic Conference sports, with the conference also adding the women’s sport next fall. The new programs bring the number of athletic offerings at EMU to 17. The school also offers baseball, field hockey and softball as well as men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field, soccer and volleyball.
Director of Athletics Dave King is excited about adding the two programs.
“It is very exciting to be able to provide additional opportunities for students to participate in intercollegiate sports,” said King. “When you recognize the added value of playing collegiate sports to the educational experience, it is gratifying to know that up to 20 more students will have the opportunity to be impacted through being a member of the golf teams. I believe the nature of practices and competitions in golf will allow us to attain and then retain full rosters.”
King said he hopes to have a head coach hired as soon as possible to start the recruiting process. He feels golf is a good fit for the institution.
“The interest and participation in high school golf is strong in some of the university’s key recruitment areas and we have had an increasing number of prospective students inquire about a golf team. The proximity of a city owned golf course, the growth of women’s golf in the ODAC and our interest in expanding the athletic program to assist in reaching the enrollment goals of the university, were all factors in our decision to add the golf programs for next year.”
Dr. Ken L. Nafziger, EMU’s Vice President for Student Life who oversees the Athletic Department, thought golf supported the mission of preparing students for the rest of their lives through an avenue the students were already utilizing.
“Several years ago students who had played competitively in high school initiated golf as a club team sport,” said Nafziger. “Once we saw sustained student interest and the opportunity to attract academically-oriented students, both men and women, to a sport offered by the ODAC and many of our feeder schools, we decided to implement it. With good coaching and recruitment, we believe golf team members can achieve both academic and athletic success in a sport that they can play for a lifetime with friends and business colleagues.”
The Royals will use Heritage Oaks Golf Course in Harrisonburg as their home course.
“I am very grateful to Heritage Oaks Golf Course and their head professional, David Johns, for their encouragement, support and cooperation,” King said. “The course is kept in great condition, it is conveniently located and the staff is very good to work with. The Loyal Royals have also been a big help as they are providing funding that allows us to hire the coach this semester and support the golf club program this spring.”
Brad Bankston, Commissioner of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference, said EMU’s decision comes at an interesting crossroads in the ODAC’s history.
“It’s always great to see member institutions working to improve their offerings,” he said. “The addition of golf at EMU is a testament to the school’s focus on broadening its offerings to student-athletes in an effort to accommodate a need on campus. Recent membership discussions led to inviting Shenandoah University to the conference, and internal championships and scheduling conversations have provided schools the opportunity to evaluate their own offerings. EMU will bring our number to 11 teams in the men’s golf championship in 2012-13.”
Besides the talented depth of the men’s field, Bankston explained that women’s golf is a growing area in the ODAC and will become its 23rd sponsored sport.
“Its addition was not anticipated but happened at a time when EMU was exploring adding golf,” said Bankston. “We will start the sport with five schools participating. Seven sponsoring members are needed to secure an NCAA automatic qualifier in women’s golf. The talk of adding the sport has other schools thinking about women’s golf which could help provide the NCAA automatic in a few short years.”
While the ODAC Tournament and National Championships are in the spring, the golf season actually starts in the fall and takes a break during the winter months. ODAC teams must compete in at least three ODAC-endorsed events, some of which are in the fall and some in the spring. Although there are no specific criteria concerning length, most events are two days long.
Participating schools name a five-person team for each event, with the official team combined score being the four best scores of each round. More than five golfers may participate in an event, although the extra athletes would play as individuals and not have a chance to affect the team score.
The ODAC Tournament, generally held in mid-April, is a three-round event which recently has been held at Bay Creek Resort in Cape Charles, VA. The National Championships are held in mid-May.
King said that the EMU golf teams will likely participate in three events in the fall of 2012 and three more in the spring of 2013 before the ODAC Tournament.
Information on the coaching position can be found at emu.edu/humanresources/vacancy/head_golf_coach.htm