East Central announces return of men’s, women’s golf programs in 2024

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Matt Cole

ADA, Okla. – After a seven-year hiatus, East Central University Athletics is celebrating a significant stride with the reinstatement of men’s and women’s golf, announced by ECU Director of Athletics Matt Cole. The teams are intended to commence competition in NCAA Division II in the fall of 2024.

“I am pleased to announce the return of East Central University men’s and women’s golf programs,” said Cole. “This is possible by our commitment from University leadership, alumni, donors and our outstanding partners at Oak Hills Golf and Country Club.”

ECU President Wendell Godwin echoed the enthusiasm, expressing, “This is an exciting day for Tiger Athletics! Our athletic director, Matt Cole, has been working hard to reinstate our golf program. The donor/stakeholder support has been critical to our decision and our partnership with Oak Hills Country Club made today possible.”

East Central team from 1995 that finished third in NAIA, far right is David Bryan, current director of golf at Cedar Ridge CC.

After being suspended in 2016, a significant fundraising effort transpired to help revive the teams. Cole told Golf Oklahoma today that more than $13,000 has been raised to help the teams get going and that institutional funding would support the remainder of the projected costs.

East Central was an NAIA power under former coach Scott Varner, now the head coach at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. ECU’s men finished third in 1995. It later moved up to NCAA Division II. The program was shut down in 2016 as a cost-saving measure.

Varner said ECU was ranked in the top 10 of the NAIA every year from 1992-97 and was regarded as Oklahoma’s premier NAIA program along with Central Oklahoma and Cameron. Among the many All-Americans Varner produced were David Bryan, now Director of Golf at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Broken Arrow, and Russell Huff, whose career has been on the construction side as a manager for JonesPlan.

In April, ECU Athletics initiated discussions involving alumni, former faculty, coaches, representatives from Oak Hills Golf and Country Club, and other university stakeholders to explore the reinstatement of these programs.

Jody Murray, general manager of Oak Hills Golf and Country Club, said, “We are thrilled to renew our partnership with East Central University as they reintroduce their men’s and women’s golf programs. Oak Hills Golf and Country Club is committed to providing their premier venue for student-athletes to reach their full potential and compete at the highest level. Both parties are looking forward to this reinstated partnership and the positive impact it will have within the community of Ada.”

The addition of two golf programs will expand ECU’s intercollegiate varsity teams to 13. Hill said there is also talk of reviving ECU’s tennis programs but that on-campus courts will need to be resurfaced before tennis could be brought back.

Hill said he will expect the teams to be competitive shortly after being revived.

“If we’re going to have it back, we want it to be competitive,” Hill said. “We’ll have scholarships, an operations budget, we’re working on finding coaches. We want to compete for conference championships and beyond.”

“We are all excited to return this sport to our campus,” added Godwin. “The decision also supports our enrollment goals by adding more student-athletes. In the past, our golfers were some of our top students on campus. We have high expectations for our athletes on the course and in the classroom.”

A coaching search is underway for the men’s and women’s golf head coach and will be announced at a later date.

– Press release and staff reports


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