As the mother of two young girls and, until now, a high school girls golf coach, Brandy Johnston's August calendar is usually all about Back to School stuff.
School-supply shopping. Picking out new clothes. Fall practice starting.
The former Madison Edgewood and Indiana University golfer decided to add a new wrinkle to her late-summer routine this year. Johnston is changing jobs.
Johnston, who has been the girls golf coach at Franklin and boys golf coach at Muskego, was announced Friday as the new women's golf coach at Carthage College in Kenosha. This is where you might want to tighten the seat belt a bit as we catch you up with the activity that led to arguably the most eye-opening development on the coaching carousel because of Johnston's work in building the Sabers into one of the top WIAA Division 1 girls teams in the state.
"I've always looked at the NCAA Marketplace jobs, knowing I was probably never going to apply for any of them," Johnston told me in a phone conversation Friday as she laughed at the outcome of her decision to throw her hat in the ring for this job.
"Kind of crazy. It's probably one of only two jobs I'd have been willing to take — this one or if Parkside started a women's team."
Coincidentally, changes to the men's coaching position at UW-Parkside — the NCAA Division II neighbor to Division III Carthage in Kenosha — got this coaching carousel rolling.
Parkside announced in May that it was converting its men's position to a full-time job. Longtime Rangers coach Mark Olsen, who had filled the part-time position for the previous 18 years, announced at the same time that he would not be continuing in the expanded role.
"The move to make the golf coach a full-time position is a giant step for the program's sustainability," Olsen said in a news release, "but bittersweet for me as I am not in a place in my life to take on the extra time commitment involved."
Instead, the state's only Division II school launched a national search for a replacement and found its new coach right in Kenosha. Tyler Wollberg, who served two stints as the Carthage women's golf coach, most recently starting in 2017 after the school made its women's coaching position full-time, chose to take over the Parkside program after five years in two stints at his alma mater (where Wollberg was a 2015 inductee into the Carthage Hall of Fame).
"This was, by far, one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make as a professional," Wollberg said in a July 1 news release after his job change became public. "The experience I've had at Carthage as a player and a coach will always be close to my heart. I know the team is in a good spot and is moving in the right direction and I'm confident it will continue on that path."
In fact, the dominos that fell in this situation represent a win-win for everyone involved.
Wollberg is walking into a great situation at Parkside, where the Rangers — after finishing 10th in the 11-team Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference this spring — will welcome one of their strongest in-state recruiting classes in years this fall. It is led by brothers Steven and Danny Sanicki of Menomonee Falls and includes Ben Peloquin of Schofield D.C. Everest, Sam Mendoza of Greenfield and Tommy Winkler of Mount Horeb.
Johnston, meanwhile, will have her hands full with the Lady Reds, who graduated No. 1 golfer Sarah Lyman among three seniors off its 2019 College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin runner-up team. After winning back-to-back CCIW titles under Wollberg in 2013 and '14, Carthage has finished second to Illinois Wesleyan each of the last three years.
But that's where Johnston figures to make the same impact at Carthage that Andrea Wieland has at UW-Whitewater.
The Warhawks have won two WIAC titles since she made the similar jump from a successful run as the girls coach at Milton. Key to Whitewater's rapid rise, coincidentally, was the transfer from Carthage of CheyAnn Knudsen, one of Wieland's former players at Milton who left Carthage after her freshman season, won the 2017 WIAC individual title and has helped the Warhawks make back-to-back NCAA Division III appearances.
At Franklin, Johnston showed an ability to build a program capable of competing with perennial southeastern Wisconsin powers such as Hartland Arrowhead, Mequon Homestead, Brookfield Central and Mukwonago. Under Johnston, the Sabers made the program's only two WIAA Division 1 state appearance in 2015 (fifth) and 2017 (fourth), losing to Brookfield Central in a team playoff for the second state berth at Mequon Homestead sectional in 2016.
Johnston, who will turn the Franklin girls program over to boys coach Brandon Johnson this fall, is wrapping up her second summer as an LPGA teaching professional at Muskego Lakes Country Club where she coordinated the junior golf program. She also ran summer camps in the Franklin School District and, last fall, had 22 girls in the high school program.
"It was a couple of weeks ago on a Thursday and my husband was out of town," Johnston said, describing the quick process that led to her landing her first college coaching job. "I emailed him 'Hey, I just applied to Carthage.' It was around 11 o'clock at night. He's like 'Cool!' And then Friday, I'm like 'Hey, they emailed me; they want to talk to me.' Saturday, I had a phone interview and then I was on campus that Monday. They offered me the job Thursday.
"Big change. It happened pretty fast. I'm pretty excited."
It's been a whirlwind year of change in Wisconsin college coaching circles.
Johnston is the second high-profile Wisconsin high school coach to make the jump to the college ranks. Sheboygan North boys coach Andrew Delong, the president of the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin, was named in May as the new men's golf coach at UW-Stout, one of just two WIAC schools to still offer a men's program at a Division III school that also offers a popular Golf Enterprise Management major for students with an eye on the golf business.
Also this past week, UW-Stevens Point, another Division III school, named Mark Puls as its third head coach in as many years. Puls, who played his collegiate golf at UW-Eau Claire, has since 2017 served as the director of golf at Stevens Point Country Club, which is the Pointers' home course.
And the local coaching carousel is not done spinning.
UW-River Falls is looking for a women's golf coach after the departure two weeks ago of 2018 WIAC coach of the year Lance Westberg. The Falcons' position is a part-time job and Westberg, who was also an assistant men's basketball coach, left to become the head men's basketball coach at Houghton University, a Christian liberal arts school in western New York.
There's your opening. Who will be next to hop aboard?