Fifth-year head coach Marc Chandonnet had one lofty goal when he took the Seattle U job: to get the Redhawks back to the NCAA championships. On Monday, that vision will become reality.
Over the last three years, Seattle University golf coach Marc Chandonnet estimates that he’s put about 70,000 miles on his black Ford F-150 truck while driving around Washington state looking for recruiting gems to help fulfill his lofty vision for his program: Take the Redhawks to the NCAA golf championships.
The seed of that vision was planted in 2012, when Chandonnet accepted the Seattle U coaching position and wrote out a five-year plan that culminated in an NCAA championships appearance in Year 5.
Now, as Chandonnet concludes his fifth season in Seattle, the vision has become reality.
On Monday at the Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, the 12th-seeded Redhawks men’s golf team will make their first appearance in the NCAA Men’s Golf Regional tournament since 1965.
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“It’s one of those things I’ve dreamed about since the day I got here,” Chandonnet said. “I knew it was going to happen. I knew this was going to come. If it hadn’t happened this year, I might have been a little heartbroken.”
It’s a huge milestone for a program that was discontinued in 1980 before its resurrection in 2008 as the Redhawks transitioned back to the Division I level.
And Chandonnet has done it almost exclusively with homegrown talent. Seven of the eight men on the Redhawks’ roster are Washington natives, products of all those scouting missions Chandonnet made in his trusty black truck.
Unlike the bigger Power Five schools, Chandonnet doesn’t have 4.5 scholarships to split among his recruits. The Redhawks men’s golf team makes do with 1.8 to 2.0 scholarships, which makes it tough to compete with the likes of UW in recruiting.
“We’re grossly underfunded compared to our competitors,” Chandonnet said. “We don’t have a huge recruiting budget. So for me, it’s important that I get out and I’m able to watch these kids play. I can’t offer scholarships two years out, so I’m looking for the late bloomers who can make an impact on a program.”
From seniors Kyle Cornett (Mill Creek), Ross Kukula (Ocean Park) and Patrick Sato (Bellevue) to junior Joe Harvie (Orting) and wunderkind Zack Overstreet (Issaquah), who was recently named WAC Freshman of the Year, Chandonnet’s recruits all have one quality in common.
“Passion for the game,” he said. “They have to have a love for what they’re doing, and it usually translates into hard workers.”
The other quality that always catches Chandonnet’s eye: Appreciation.
“I really have a liking for a student-athlete that can appreciate opportunity and the little things that come with it,” Chandonnet said.
Chandonnet has proved to be a keen talent evaluator. Cornett and Overstreet were both named to the All-WAC first team this season after leading Seattle U to the team title in the WAC Golf Championship.
That earned the Redhawks the WAC’s automatic berth to NCAAs. Overall, Cornett and Overstreet placed second and third, respectively in the WAC tournament, and Chandonnet was also named WAC golf coach of the year.
It’s been quite the dream season so far for freshman sensation Overstreet, who was one of the first prep golf talents Chandonnet pegged as a potential Redhawk.
“He was on my list when I got here in September 2012,” Chandonnet said. “I worked diligently to identify all the players that had the characteristics I looked for, and he fit the bill perfectly.”
Overstreet says he was immediately drawn to Chandonnet’s fire.
“I could tell the team was competitive and that I was coming into a team that really wanted to win and that’s the vibe I got from coach as well,” Overstreet said. “He made it clear that he wanted to win and wanted to do what it took to win. That was why I was excited to be offered a spot on the team.
“I knew I was coming into a team with a good coach and with four seniors, a very competitive team. I knew there was a culture in place.”
Establishing that culture was one of the first things Chandonnet did when he took the Seattle U job. Over the last few years, Chandonnet has fostered strong ties between the Redhawks golf team and the community, and that has helped with recruiting, tournament organization and invitations and access to golf courses, he says.
As the Redhawks gear up for their first NCAA appearance in more than half a century, Chandonnet says he’s excited that they’ll get to stay home for the regional round, especially for the recruiting exposure.
“I feel like if we went to any other regional, we would get overlooked,” Chandonnet says. “Now, people who go look at UW’s results will also see us.”