Park University athletics adding back men's golf after long hiatus

Park University plans to expand its athletic offerings by bringing back a familiar program.

Last week, school officials announced the addition of men’s golf for the 2017-18 season after the program had gone dormant for more than 30 years. Park’s first-ever NAIA All-American came from the men’s golf program in the 1979-80 season when Brian Maloney claimed the honor, and in the 1981-82 season, the program made its only trip to the NAIA National Championship at Alamance Country Club in Burlington, N.C.

“Men’s golf was one of our most successful programs in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and it just makes a lot of sense to bring it back,” Park athletic director Claude English said in a press release. “We’ve built a very successful women’s program over the last decade and a half, and this is a great complement to that program. Most importantly, it adds another opportunity for students to compete in a sport that has high demand.”

The 2017-18 men’s golf program will join the women at one of the premier facilities in all of collegiate golf, competing both at The National Golf Club and The Deuce at The National Golf Club — both near the campus in Kansas City, Mo.

The teams will practice at both courses with access to all 36 holes. Five-Star Lifestyles, which also owns and operates Loch Lloyd Country Club, south of the river in Kansas City, Mo., operates both National courses.

“The National has been an excellent community partner and has really been extremely gracious to Park University athletics,” English said. “Not only do our teams have access to one of the best facilities in college golf, the golf courses have also been home to our golf scramble, which is our chief fundraising and development event. 

“We are extremely blessed to have a partner like The National Golf Club of Kansas City.”

In 2003, Park added women’s golf for the first time in its athletics history, and in 2008, the program made its only appearance in the NAIA National Championship at Lake San Marcos Country Club in the San Diego, Calif. area, under the program’s first head coach Kelly DeFeo.

Mike Mueller coached the Pirates from 2009 to 2013 when assistant athletic director for sports communications Steve Wilson took on additional duties as the coach.

Wilson will step down as women’s golf coach at the end of the 2016-17 season, and a national search is currently underway to hire a full-time men’s and women’s golf coach, who will begin to recruit and fill the roster for the men’s program in 2017-18. Wilson will complete the women’s roster through the spring, and in 2017-18, will begin his role as associate athletic director for compliance and communications. 

“It’s been an honor to coach the women’s golf program and to see it improve in size and success while also carrying on the tradition of outstanding academics,” Wilson said. “I’m excited to transition and to continue to grow professionally, and I can’t thank English enough for giving me the opportunities he has. This program will only continue to trend upward with a coach fully focused on the game of golf.”

Recently, Park also announced the addition of seven junior varsity programs for the school starting in 2017-18. The teams will be for women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and softball.

Park’s developmental squads will compete against junior varsity, developmental, and reserve programs from other institutions in both the NAIA and NCAA, as well as area junior colleges that compete in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). The teams will compete in the same facilities as the Pirates’ varsity intercollegiate teams, playing a smaller schedule filled primarily by local teams within a few hours’ drive.

“This is really a win for Park University, Pirate athletics, and for our community,” English said. “The addition of these seven programs will increase the footprint athletics has on this campus and brings a much-needed increase in opportunity to students who want to compete in intercollegiate athletics at Park.”

With the addition of the developmental squads, Park University plans to increase its athletics staff with full-time assistant coaches, who will serve as head coaches for the developmental teams as well as assistant coaches for the varsity program.