By Gabe Chapman
This past week, Lawrence University President Mark Burstein accepted the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee’s recommendation to change the status of the Lawrence University Men’s Golf program from varsity to club, effective at the end of the year. The switch came after conversations with students, faculty, coaches and alumni that convinced Burstein that the change would benefit the majority of Lawrence’s student athletes and the Athletics department’s budgetary goals.
By changing the program to club status, the team’s financial responsibility now falls to the Lawrence University Community Council’s activity fee instead of the Athletics department’s budget, creating the ability to employ a full-time strength and conditioning coach. “The change will free up resources to enhance our remaining 21 varsity programs, which involve over 300 students and also will hopefully increase the opportunities for all students to play golf at Lawrence through a robust club program,” said Burstein.
Nevertheless, members of the golf team took the news with disappointment. “Big decisions like this are hard for President Burstein to make and there are always two sides to a story. However, I am saddened that a varsity team is sacrificed to achieve a small budget cut,” said junior Nigel Schuster.
Schuster is one of the team’s top players and has been a member of the team since his freshman year. The option to play golf attracted Schuster to Lawrence, and the development and growth the golf team has exhibited over the past few years is something he takes pride in.
While the men’s golf program has never had a strong recruiting presence, the team stresses the benefits of the strong bonds formed on and off the field. Several players on the team were recruited to play another sport at Lawrence and were drawn to the golf team because of the opportunity to play two sports at the NCAA varsity level.
The program has traditionally only held a handful of players each season, but those who are on the team play their entire time at Lawrence. “This past spring season was the most fun I’ve ever had playing golf, and the team scored really well,” said sophomore Austin Frank.
Junior Nathan Ley was not surprised that the golf team was changed to club status because its small team roster and the lack of equipment or inventory made the decision an easy one. However, he made the point that the looming decision hurt the team’s potential because the coaching staff made a point not to actively recruit players only to see the team downgraded to a club sport. “It doesn’t help our case, but unless you’re trying to have three teams like Carthage [College] or St. Norbert [College], you only need ten students,” said Ley.
As a whole, the team felt that the move contradicted the president’s statements in a “The Lawrence Minute” video from October of 2013 where he said, “The opportunity of combining a time in the classroom and on campus as well as being a member of a varsity team is a unique way to learn some of the most important lessons in life.”
However, the players are grateful for the opportunity to compete at the varsity level and are looking forward to the success of the program at the club level.