Kirkwood men’s golf no longer ‘bridesmaids’

When you coach a sport at Kirkwood Community College, there is a certain expectation.

It’s more than simply winning more games than you lose among the six sports offered at the Cedar Rapids two-year college.

Whether it’s baseball or softball, volleyball or basketball — or men’s golf — national tournament berths are the norm. National titles might not come every year, but they do happen.

Darin Pint has been the men’s golf coach at Kirkwood for 27 years and has coached the Eagles to 17 regional titles over the last 19, meaning 17 berths in the NJCAA II national tournament.

There have been a pair of runner-up national finishes, a couple of fourths and a couple more fifths.

But one thing always seemed to elude Pint and his Eagles.

“What’s the saying? ‘Always a bridesmaid, never the bride,’” he said last week with a laugh.

That all changed late last month when the Eagles finally broke down that barrier and captured the NJCAA II title at The Golf Club at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth, Ind.

Welcome to the alter.

“It was an awesome week,” Pint said.

This title was many years in the making, many successful seasons despite Pint noting his teams had “struck out” before this year.

You don’t strike out when you’re an almost constant participant in the national tournament. You don’t strike out when your a multiple-time coach of the year in your conference/region or a two-time national coach of the year.

You don’t strike out when you coached a player — T.J. Redding — to medalist honors at the 2006 national tournament.

Pint has rarely “struck out,” but this time his Eagles hit a grand slam.

“What makes it even more special is I could enjoy it the last hole or two,” he said.

Kirkwood athletics director Doug Wagemester was on site and asked Pint, with a few holes left, if the coach wanted to know where the Eagles stood.

“I couldn’t get updates on my phone to see where we were,” Pint said.

He found out Kirkwood held 15-stroke lead.

“You could take a breath a little bit and enjoy the moment,” he said. “It was a special moment.”

It was a special team, too.

The Eagles roster includes four international golfers mixed with five Iowans — from Cedar Rapids, Solon, Panora, Marshalltown and Eldridge.

Kolby Shackelford, the one from Panora, finished fourth individually with a four-round total of 286. Nathan Bratanata of Melbourne, Australia, tied for seventh. Grant Greazel of Marshalltown an Luke Evans of Winchester, England, finished in the Top 30.

Taylor Crisp of Woodbridge, England, was the Eagles’ other scorer in Indiana. Frank Haege of Solon, Gannon Hall of Cedar Rapids (Kennedy), Max Adkisson of Eldridge and Jack Phipps of Aredee, Ireland, are the other players.

Pint said seven of the nine finished in the top three in a tournament this season.

“It was one of those years when you could feel the buildup,” he said. “We had a lot of depth.”

But players with such diverse backgrounds — albeit with a common love for the game — can be difficult to navigate.

“That’s always a little bit of a challenge,” Pint said. “… building that chemistry, building that camaraderie.”

With the help of a new indoor facility within Johnson Hall where the players can hang out, this team grew into a cohesive unit.

“You don’t have those special teams unless they get along,” Pint said.

A challenging schedule and the “toughest” region in the country prepared the Eagles for this title.

“It was just a culmination of a lot of hard work,” Pint said. “I don’t know if there was one point (during the season), but I knew we had a really balanced, deep team.

“You just never know … you’ve got to go out and execute.”

Pint. who turns 50 later this month, once was an avid and outstanding golfer himself. A four-sport standout at Wapsie Valley High School who went on to play basketball and golf at Coe, his game takes a “back seat” nowadays to raising daughters Nadia and Katia with his wife, Anna.

But that’s OK. He loves that, too — and his work at Kirkwood is not done.

“We’re fighting the urge to take a deep breath and relax,” he said. “Hopefully the next one doesn’t take another 27 years.”

It’s Kirkwood sports. What would you expect?

Comments: (319) 398-8461; [email protected]