Xavier Magazine

Golfers Gone Wild

Xavier’s golf program has garnered national attention in the last few years with the success of two of its graduates. Jason Kokrak won five college tournaments for Xavier and qualified for the U.S. Open as a 22-year-old in 2007.

After finishing his communication arts degree in 2008 he joined the eGolf Professional Tour, where he worked his way to the position of leading money winner. He then graduated to the Nationwide Tour. Last year in the Nationwide he was the 4th money leader ($338,092) and the Tour’s longest hitter, with a punishing 318.6-yard average drive.

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Kokrak is known for his authority on the range. But his short game isn’t bad either, and two wins within five weeks at the end of the 2011 Nationwide season clinched Kokrak a berth on the 2012 PGA Tour. He opened his rookie season with a 75th place finish (and a memorable 362-yard drive) at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Then, in February, he battled to a 9th place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, ahead of Tiger Woods. He’s earned $217,528 so far this year.

Also, Andy Pope, a 2006 communication arts major, is playing on the Nationwide Tour. He recently finished 28th at the Chile Classic Presented by Pacific Rubiales.

And those two may soon be joined by another Musketeer on the professional circuit, Sebastian MacLean, a senior who recently won his fourth college tournament at Myrtle Beach. MacLean is Bolivian, a fifth-generation descendent of a Scottish sea captain who sailed to Peru in the mid-1800s, met a wife and never went home. MacLean seems to have retained his ancestral predilection for the sport, and he plans to enter the PGA Latin America Tour this year, where he will try to play his way into the Nationwide and eventually the PGA Tour. That’s not MacLean’s only goal, though. He’s also aiming to represent Bolivia at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Xavier Magazine

Golf Goes Inside

Hours after a spring cloudburst, Doug Steiner walks over to a puddle in the parking lot of the Maketewah Country Club, plants his feet in the water and looks up.

“The front door is going to be right…here,” he says.

In front of him are two empty tennis courts and 15 acres of tangled undergrowth. But the director of Xavier’s golf programs sees something else entirely: An indoor golf facility, designed to give Xavier’s golfers a year-round practice area just two miles from campus.

“My players will have exactly what they need to be good,” he says. “That’s a good feeling for a coach.”

He’s been building this dream for two years now. There were times when he wondered if it would be realized, but now the plans are drawn and the shovels hit the soil as soon as contracts are finalized and signed.

“Ah, it’s goose bumps for me,” Steiner says, shaking the ice in his soda and touching his arms. “Truly. It’s pure excitement, paired with relief.”

Steiner’s journey to this parking lot puddle began two years ago when he lost a top recruit to Purdue University, which had an indoor facility.

“All the big programs in this part of the country started building them,” Steiner says. “Kids want to go where they can practice all year round.”

Xavier’s golf program is already highly regarded. Golf Digest ranks it 19th best in the country and No. 1 in the Midwest. It has produced many successful players, including Jason Kokrak (see sidebar), who plays on the PGA Tour and beat Tiger Woods this February at Pebble Beach, and Andy Pope, who plays one step down on the Nationwide Tour.

But Steiner knew if Xavier was to keep pace with other programs, it needed the facilities to attract the best players. So he and his staff started dreaming. “We were drawing things on napkins in the early stages,” Steiner says. They visited facilities at other universities and began raising money. Steiner’s initial goal was $200,000. When he met that, he aimed for $400,000. After 15 months of fundraising, he had $850,000. Maketewah Country Club, Xavier’s new home course, chipped in the rest of the money for a $1.3 million building, slated to be finished in time for winter practice.

“It’s become a necessity now,” Steiner says. “Ten years ago, it might not have mattered. Now it matters if we want to be great.”

It matters to Korey Ward, a tall freshman at the driving range, knocking balls 175 yards in fluid strokes with his seven-iron. An Ohio Amateur Champion, Ward chose Xavier for its golf program, education and proximity to home. He can’t wait to have a year-round practice facility, especially on days like today when pools of rainwater cover the driving range.

“We’re all very excited about it,” he says. “It will give us a chance to practice in the winter. It will be pretty spectacular, from what I hear.”

Judging by the plans, Ward won’t be disappointed. The tri-level, 10,000-square-foot building includes men’s and women’s locker rooms, a 3,500-square-foot putting green, four covered hitting bays and a Cobra-Puma fitting center. It will also have a kitchen, conference room, trophy room and study lounge. And a short game area behind the building allows players to practice their putts, chips and wedges.

“It’s kind of like our own clubhouse,” Steiner says. “My dream is that a player, on a snowy day in February, can take a two-minute drive and stay all day. They can putt, chip, drive, make something to eat and study for class.”

Steiner says Xavier’s recent successes and talented young recruits bode well for the future of the golf program. As he talks, he checks his phone for news updates—Kokrak just teed off at the PGA Transitions Championship in Florida.

“One of my dreams as a coach was to have a guy make the PGA tour,” Steiner says. “My next dream is to win the Masters. What would it be like to have a Xavier guy win the Masters? It would be big. It’s possible.”

More immediately, Steiner is looking forward to the new building that will elevate the golf program among its competitors and even within the University. “It gives us a home,” Steiner says. “This will be our Cintas.”

Xavier Magazine

Slice of Life

Dan Wenstrup knows his way around a golf course. Exactly 100 of them. Wenstrup long ago promised himself that he was going to play every single course on Golf Digest magazine’s list of “The 100 Greatest Golf Courses” in America. So he teed up his dream. He drove. And in December he conquered.

Over the course of the last four (fore!) decades, the pilgrimage lured Wenstrup, a 1956 business major, from his suburban Chicago roots to some three dozen states. When he crossed off the final course, a round at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., in December, his ever-patient, practically saintly golf widow Eileen O’Brien, a fellow 1956 Xavier grad, showed up at the Chicago O’Hare Airport in the middle of the night, with family members and a limo in tow, to celebrate his achievement. “I actually sort of broke down” in tears, he says.

Wenstrup found he really had to pump his social and business networks to gain admission to all these exclusive courses, often cajoling visitor privileges from members he’s met over the years.

His son Kevin, the golf pro at Stonebridge Country Club in Aurora, Ill., feared his dad might not be able to gain admission to all 100 and fall short of the accomplishment by an elusive one or two impenetrable courses. But fear not. He even edged into the ultra-private Augusta National Golf Course, home of The Masters tournament.

“Having the opportunity to play Augusta was very special.”

Wenstrup never seriously considered golf until he and some Army buddies started fooling around with it at Fort Bliss, Texas. After leaving military service, he joined Chicago’s Chemcentral Corp. as a salesman and began the career path that would propel him into the CEO and chairman’s office. Along the way, he developed a lifelong passion for The Game.

What’s next? “My wife says, now, we’re going to visit the top 100 malls in the United States,” he says. She suggests he bring a caddy.

Xavier Magazine

Gambling on Golf

Patrick Brown has always been ahead of the game. He finished high school a semester early. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business at Xavier in 1985 after only two and a half years. He went through law school and had his own practice by his mid-20s. When he tired of the negativity in the legal system, he turned his attention to business, “where everybody wins.”

By that time it was the late 1990s, and the dot-com bubble was just forming. Brown was early on the scene when he created an online jewelry business. “It was great,” he says. “All hell was breaking loose.” Soon he created a website to manage bets on horses, merging his Internet business skills with a personal interest in horse racing.So if past success is any indication, then Brown’s next venture is sure to be a hit. In 2010 Brown was named CEO of The World Series of Golf, a unique sporting event that combines the betting style of Texas Hold ’Em with the original rules of golf.

The World Series of Golf hosts a championship in Las Vegas each year with 120 golfers. Each participant starts out with a stake of $10,000. Bets are made before tee-off, then raised, checked or called for subsequent shots. It’s a three-day battle of nerves with the winner taking home up to $300,000. With these stakes, the game is played as much in the mind as on the fairway, so winners need more than a clean chip shot. “A good golfer who’s comfortable gambling can really put the heat on another player and force them into mistakes,” Brown says. While his knowledge of golf and gambling is useful, Brown is also learning new skills. “A big aspect of this business is putting on an event,” he says. “You become a big wedding planner.”

But Brown does plan to do something with the game that he’s more familiar with—put it online. The World Series of Golf recently won a patent for replicating this model of play in virtual gaming. Brown sees it as an opportunity to grow the company exponentially—and, as always, keep himself ahead of the game. “There’s only so many live events you can put on,” Brown says. “Online, there are no limits to what we can try to accomplish.”

Xavier Magazine

Xavier wins Golf Meet

Xavier golf standout Sebastian MacLean defeated Danny Lewis 5 and 4 to win the 2010 Cincinnati Metropolitan Amateur Championship in June, becoming the best amateur player in Cincinnati. In the final match, MacLean birdied holes 9-12 before cruising to victory. He was one of 64 golfers to qualify for the match play portion of the event. The Santa Cruz, Bolivia, native recently completed his sophomore season at Xavier and earned A-10 Rookie of the Year honors after setting a new freshman scoring record (72.88) during the 2008-2009 season. MacLean led the squad with a 73.60 scoring mark in 2009-2010.

Xavier Magazine

Golf Story

Men’s golf coach Doug Steiner scans the world for great golfers, recruiting them from Canada to the Virgin Islands. But two of his most recent finds came from his own backyard—literally. This year Steiner has two of his children—daughter Lindsay, a junior, and son Doug, a freshman—playing golf at Xavier.

Recruiting them, of course, was pretty easy. Steiner is in his 21st year of coaching at Xavier, so the kids have spent their entire lives on campus. And Steiner was very familiar with their games, as they often hit the links along with younger sibling, Rachel. As one might expect from kids of a coach, their games are good. The younger Doug’s drives carry nearly 300 yards, while Lindsay was twice conference player of the year in high school.

As with any parent, Steiner says being able to coach his kids has been, well, a dream.

Xavier Magazine

Big Business

Sean Miller was working his way through Kroger recently when a man approached with a smile and a request. “This is my brother’s phone number,” the man said, handing Miller a piece of paper. “Can you give him a call and just say hi? He’s a big fan.”

Miller smiled in return, not sure whether he should be flattered that he was recognized outside of a basketball court or upset that his private life was suddenly intruded upon in the middle of a grocery store. Ultimately, the call wasn’t made. “You have to draw the line somewhere,” he says.

The line is that invisible boundary that separates the personal from the professional, the leisure from the labor—a boundary that is growing more and more blurry in the college coaching ranks. Coaches today are being asked to devote an ever-increasing amount of their time to concerns outside of their primary jobs of coaching and winning games, from personal appearances to speaking engagements to odd favors. It’s a growing price of their position.

They’re also being asked to spend an increasingly large percentage of their time in a role not typically associated with coaching—fundraiser. The economics of 21st-century college basketball have forced athletic departments to find new and creative ways to generate additional income. As a result, within the last 10 years there’s been a boom in the creation of fundraising efforts focused specifically on athletics, and coaches are being asked to help by providing slivers of their time.

Unlike many of the other non-coaching tasks that eat away at their time, however, ask them and they’ll insist that this additional role is part of their job. After all, in order to succeed, you need the tools, and money is one of them.

“I do whatever I need to do to represent Xavier,” says Miller, “whether that’s talking to season ticket holders or people who want to give significant money to the program. Those are the people who are interested in what we are about and what we stand for and not just what we did last year or what we’re going to do this season. They’re the ones who want the development of the student-athlete at the forefront of what we do, and I am very grateful to those people. I never looked at it as a burden.” On the day Miller was introduced as the head coach, he stopped Dan Cloran, director for Xavier’s All For One (AFO) club, and said he would do whatever he could to help. And he has. Last year he even hosted a party for more than 100 AFO supporters at his home.

The week women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff was hired, he spoke at an event.

“In this day and age, you need to look at it as part of the job,” says McGuff. “And, for me, it’s an opportunity to sell the program. We’re still in the growth stage, so I’m happy to do it. It can be a double-edged sword—the more you win the more you’re in demand—but that’s a good problem to have.”

Fundraising and booster clubs are, certainly, nothing new for college athletics, and coaches have been speaking at events for decades. But the two have never been so closely linked.

“Before there was no reason to join the two,” says Cloran. “Coaches would go out and speak, make people feel good and leave. Now, with Coach Miller, with every one of his speaking engagements, he’s thinking, ‘How can this benefit Xavier athletics?’ Whether he mentions supporting the AFO directly in his talk or simply references it at the end, it’s there. So if someone comes up and says, ‘How can I help?’ he can point to this structured area where they can go.”

And it’s proven beneficial. AFO funds have resulted in benefits from hiring full-time coaches to improving transportation. This past year the locker rooms were upgraded and a new conditioning room was added.

“When we met with the people who funded the new conditioning room,” says Cloran, “Coach Miller went with us on every call.”

“You have to,” says Miller. “Places like Ohio State, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia are building new facilities and spending millions of dollars to make their programs better. You have to keep up. That’s a fact of college basketball.”