The thought of coaching college golf was one that Andrew Delong never seriously entertained until last December when the Sheboygan North boys coach was attending the National Golf Coaches Association convention.
"I talked to a lot of college coaches and I was really intrigued by it," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
About the same time, UW-Stout announced that women's coach Howie Samb would become director of golf at the NCAA Division III school in Menomonie. Samb is also a professor in the Golf Enterprise Management program and was tasked with hiring a new men's coach who shared the vision of a strong connection between golf's academic and athletic opportunities at Stout.
"I reached out to (Samb) and we started talking about it," said Delong, who is also wrapping up a long stint as president of the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin. "The more we talked about it, the more excited I got."
Delong is a Stout graduate who grew up in nearby Elmwood and wife Katie is a Menomonie graduate. After spending 10 years building a successful boys program at Sheboygan North, Delong felt he was ready to make the jump to college golf and Wednesday was announced as the Blue Devils' new coach.
Samb made the announcement in a new release, praising Eddie Andrist for the work he did during the 2018-19 season on an interim basis. Andrist, who was previously Stout's men's basketball coach, took over last fall for Rob Robinson, whose contract was not renewed after a three-year run.
"Andrew understands how important the GEM program is to the men's golf program," Samb said in a statement of Delong, who has also spent 11 years in golf operations at Whistling Straits in Haven where he supervised college interns — many from Stout — and trained new staff while assisting in daily operations at the home of the 2020 Ryder Cup. "And likewise, he knows how important the men's program is to the GEM program. A perfect win-win situation."
Over his 10 seasons at Sheboygan North, Delong has coached the Golden Raiders to three WIAA Division I state tournament appearances and two Fox River Classic Conference championships. They will go after a third straight FRCC championship Thursday at Wander Springs Golf Course in Greenleaf.
Besides coaching golf, Delong has been an assistant swimming coach, an assistant hockey coach, head volleyball coach and assistant volleyball coach at Sheboygan North. He has also been an adviser to the yearbook, newspaper and student council. In 2018, Delong was selected as the Sheboygan Area Schools teacher of the year.
At Stout, Delong is looking forward to recruiting and working with his Blue Devils golfers in the area of course management using strategies that have worked in building the Golden Raiders into a consistent contender.
"I've had the opportunity to coach some really, really good players lately, some college-level players," Delong said. "I love talking about managing a course, how to attack a course and how to play a hole. I look forward to doing that.
"I look forward to recruiting, too. I love watching junior golf and now I get to get out there and watch with a purpose and evaluate kids."
Delong believes Stout has a lot to offer.
It is one of just two Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools still offering men's golf. UW-Eau Claire is the other and ended its spring season ranked 19th in the GolfStat.com Division III rankings.
His hire is also part of an aggressive recruiting campaign Stout is undertaking to grow its Golf Enterprise Management program through its competitive programs. Stout's GEM program differs from Professional Golf Management programs at NCAA Division I and II institutions that have their own college-owned courses in that it targets the business of golf more than it does playing the game and boasts a 98 percent job placement rate upon graduation.
"I'm not a PGA (member), but I have worked in the golf business a long time," said Delong, who is the chairman of the marshall's committee for the 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. "I've been at Whistling Straits in golf operations for 11 or 12 years. I've done pretty much everything there. I've done maintenance at Blackwolf (Run in Kohler) before our oldest son was born.
"I see the connection. I see how it all comes together. Kids who want to go into the career, it's a great place to start and learn about it — build some relationships with Kohler and other courses, like Sand Valley — and see if they enjoy it. I certainly value the connection there between the golf management program and the men's golf program."
And Samb knows the school has hired an energetic promotor of both programs.
"Andrew certainly has the leadership and organizational skills to get our men's team back to national prominence," Samb said. "Andrew understands the tireless effort it takes to be a great recruiter. He knows that fundraising is very important to the program's success and is looking forward to that challenge."