Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bison golf team gains respect, gets results

Making name for selves with fine play, conduct

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Once seen as interlopers and tag-alongs, the members of the University of Manitoba Bisons golf team are in a different place now.

They're bringing results -- how about three wins in the U.S. last season, and one more to start this fall's campaign -- and recognition. They're finding acceptance and credibility.

It wasn't that way in 1999, when local pros Derek Ingram and Garth Goodbrandson founded the team and funded it on their own. The U of M's take back then was: "We haven't got anything for you but go right ahead."

Ingram, now the head coach of the Canadian national men's amateur team, gave up his Bisons duties a few years ago. Goodbrandson, the long-time Golf Manitoba director of player development, continues on as head coach.

"Derek and I, well, it was pretty frustrating for a time but one day we just sat and decided it (total funding and support) was just not going to happen, so we can look at it two ways," Goodbrandson recalled this week. "We can keep being critical and frustrated, or we can just keep on going.

"You know Derek, we just kept going."

Just back from the team's first tournament of the year, a first-place finish at last week's Concordia Invitational in Moorhead, Minn., Goodbrandson was in a reflective mood about the team's first 13 seasons.

"It's been very positive, we've stayed positive and to give the the U of M credit, over time, things are different," he said. "Way back, people around (U of M) wouldn't even know we had a golf team, even people involved in sports.

"Now, the golf team has way more respect and is way more accepted and known. I know our players feel it."

The golf team was even invited to participate in last week's school pep rally.

Today, the golf team under the guidance of Goodbrandson and assistant Ed Boge is still mostly self-funded, along with some grant help from Golf Canada.

But now, any funding the team funnels back to scholarships to help players, the university will match.

It's proving to be a worthy endeavour.

Highlights from the first week included the Concordia individual title to Charlie Boyechko, who shot 67 (the tournament's best round) and 74 for a four-shot win. Boyechko, you'll recall, lost in a four-man playoff in this year's Manitoba Amateur.

The 11-man team will play the second of its seven fall tournaments (six are in the U.S.) this weekend in Bemidji.

"Our playing schedule over the years, it's much better than people think," Goodbrandson said. "And I'd say that last year was probably our best showing ever, three wins, another second."

Why now?

Goodbrandson said that has to do with developing players and developing people.

"On the golf course, a lot of our top players like Charlie and Josh Wytinck and Bobby Wiebe, they've all been second-team players before, come through the ranks," he said. "Now, I think they're just comfortable shooting lower."

With good relationships and a good reputation with coaches from Division II and III schools in the U.S., the Bison coaches have been able to offer improving schedules for the players over the years.

"The one thing that's always stood out right from the start is that we've always heard from other teams how impressed they've been with the kind of people our players are," Goodbrandson said. "If a team hosted a tournament, generally they liked to put their team with our team (in the pairings). And not because we were outstanding players or anything.

"They just wanted to show their team how to act on the golf course."

Of course Goodbrandson has his eye on more results this fall.

He's eager to restore a women's team to the program. It has lapsed due to lack of players in the last year or so but he's not easily deterred.

This fall, the Bisons had three players lined up but for a variety of reasons all were unavailable for a fall tournament schedule.

Goodbrandson said he's hopeful that at least two of those three will be on board next season, and sees some possible candidates soon to graduate from junior golf.

He's certainly got a résumé of building something from just about scratch.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2012 B6

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