“The credit goes to the coach,” athletic director Charlie Grimes said. “He’s golden.”
Celebrating the program’s 50–year anniversary earlier this fall, head golf coach Ken Hyland has seen almost every transition the program has made.
In his 42nd year as head coach, he is proud to say that men’s golf has guided the Pioneers once again.
“It’s an honor; we were the first team ever to win a district title back in 1968 and I was on that team,” Hyland said. “It’s special to say that golf was a pioneer for Malone in both NAIA way back in ’68 and the GLIAC championship in 2013.”
A team’s identity often comes from the head coach. Hyland has a very competitive edge that he has instilled in his players.
“The only reason we compete is to win,” Hyland said. “We have one goal: to be in the last group of every tournament we play in.”
Senior golf player Tyler Light said, “It would have to be Coach’s demeanor and how he gets us ready. He loves competition, he preaches competition, and each of us has gotten better over the year through competing with one another.”
After the big win, the Pioneers didn’t immediately realize the impact they had made winning the first GLIAC championship.
“We didn’t think much of it, we just saw it as another tournament,” Light said. “Until afterwards I saw Coach crying, and then the warm reception we got here at Malone made me realize, ‘Wow, this is kind of a big deal.’”
Pioneer golf entered its first eligible year in conference play this fall, and the team has set the standard on how the university wants to compete in the GLIAC.
“I knew they had a really good chance to do it,” Grimes said. “This gives us a lot of respect and it inspires the other teams here. . .it can be done.”
Grimes is excited about the team’s establishment and early success in NCAA Division II. [pullquote]“We didn’t think much of it, we just saw it as another tournament,” Light said. “Until afterwards I saw Coach crying, and then the warm reception we got here at Malone made me realize, ‘Wow, this is kind of a big deal.’”[/pullquote]
“There are actually teams (from Malone) in the GLIAC who have yet to win even one championship and it’s great to get one our first year,” Grimes said. “It establishes us as a Division II program; we are not going to fly under the radar.”
The Pioneers made its initial impact, but the team isn’t finished yet, with regionals coming up in spring and national championship aspirations.
“If we play our game, we will be okay,” Light said. “We believe we can win it.”
The Super Regional tournament will be played in St. Louis, where the Pioneers finished their last tournament. There will be 20 teams competing and the top 4 advance to nationals hosted at Grand Valley State University.
Hyland said, “Anytime we tee it up, it’s realistic,” commenting on its reach for a national championship title.