Cal retains golf program amid budget cuts

Cal women's coach Nancy McDaniel (file photo)

Cal women's coach Nancy McDaniel (file photo)


Lance Ringler's College Golf Page



College golf dodged a bullet last week.

For the past couple of months, the University of California athletic department was looking at ways to trim its budget. Eliminating a few sports was an obvious way to do this, and golf could have been on the chopping block.

However, on Sept. 28, it was announced that as of fall 2011, women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s gymnastics, baseball and rugby would all be dropped at Cal - but not golf.

“It was a difficult day and a difficult week,” said longtime men’s golf coach Steve Desimone. “The fallout and residue of this is going to be here for a long, long time.”

With athletic departments around the country facing tough times, cutting golf programs remains one option. And in the past few years, we have seen it at lesser-known programs such as Duquense. But not at a place like Cal, a Pac-10 school.

College golf is a sport that should survive the times at any school.

It is one of the least expensive sports and there can be many ways to use the golf program to connect to the alumni and donor base. Desimone agrees that golf can be valuable to an athletic department’s success.

“I think it’s one of the reasons it’s not being hit, because golf programs provide resources in many, many ways, and when done right can really, really give a department a boost,” said Desimone.

It’s not uncommon for a college golf program to operate on bare bones or without the direct aid from its athletic budget. Take Augusta State, for instance. The Jaguars won the NCAA Championship last spring with much less than some of the big-name programs in the sport.

Even at Cal, the men’s team does not allot the full complement of scholarships the NCAA allows (4.5; the women get six). The Cal men’s program is self-funded and slowly has been closing in on the maximum, but currently is at 3.75.

Golf at Cal has many things going for it. The women’s team is ranked No. 8 and the men are No. 21 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. And both programs have a solid foundation of support.

“Both programs are very financially sound because of the tremendous alumni support,” said Desimone.

Nancy McDaniel, the only women’s coach in the program’s history, also acknowledges the support.

“Our major donors have supported men’s and women’s golf since the very beginning of our programs and continue to do so in a big way. We really cannot thank them enough, especially during these volatile times,” said McDaniel.

Chalk this one up as a victory for college golf. It would be ridiculous to see a golf team at a major school been eliminated, but with the way administrations see things, anything is possible.

Let’s just hope people see college golf for what it can be and agree with McDaniel: “We consider ourselves lucky to have a sport that people enjoy throughout their lifetime. This gives us a wonderful vehicle in which to cultivate meaningful relationships with these people and the ability to use golf tournaments in a fund-raising capacity.”

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