Andrew Delong took a leap of faith nearly two years ago, leaving a successful high school boys golf program at Sheboygan North for Menomonie to become the men's coach at UW-Stout and be closer to family in nearby Elmwood.
After adding the role of lecturer and, later, program director for the Graphic Communications department little over a year ago, Delong continued to expand his presence on the UW-Stout campus Thursday when he was named director of golf for the Blue Devils. Besides continuing as men's coach at the NCAA Division III school, he will also oversee the powerhouse women's program after the recent retirement of Howie Samb, the eight-time Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year who coached the team to three WIAC titles and four runner-up finishes in his 12 seasons.
“It seems fast,” Delong said in a telephone interview with Wisconsin.Golf of his expanding role at UW-Stout. “We’ve worked hard to establish ourselves with the men with re-establishing a work ethic and how we work in the off-season. Walking into the women’s (program), it's a situation where that is already there. It runs really well.
“As far as what this means to me, it means a lot. I’m able to bring my vision into a golf program and have the men and women interact more and see it as one program with two teams.”
Delong has been overseeing the women's program on an interim basis since Samb's announcement Dec. 8. NCAA rules prevent Delong from talking about specific recruits until they submit a financial deposit, but it is known that he has helped secure oral commitments from Sydney Grimm of Waunakee and Madeline Kiley of Kimberly out of the Class of 2021 for the women’s team in addition to landing Waukesha West's Connor Nelson and St. Croix Central's Matthew Mueller for the men.
Delong said he is excited to foster a competitive atmosphere for golfers on both teams by having them work with and compete against each other in practice.
“I really hope to build a culture that we are one,” said Delong, who was tasked with rebuilding the men’s program -- 10 years removed from its most recent NCAA Division III Championship berth -- to a level similar to the women’s program, which has been a perennial contender in the WIAC. “The men and women are in different spots with what they are hoping to achieve. I want everyone to see us as one, cohesive unit with set of expectations in how we act, how we behave, how we work and how we play and how we treat others on the course and off the course, how we act in the community.
“I want all that stuff to be the same and use each other to drive each other. I hope to use competition between the teams at practice to create … real pressure. I was talking to some of the ladies as we were transitioning from Howie to myself. They have an excitement about playing against the guys at practice. When that happens, the guys aren’t going to want to lose to the ladies and the ladies aren’t going to want to lose to the guys. So we hope to create some internal competition and build off that.”
Delong becomes the eighth Division III coach in Wisconsin and ninth coach overall to lead both the men's and women's programs at their school. He becomes the third new coach in the WIAC since the most recent conference championship in 2019, after changes at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point.
It will be the first time coaching women's golf for Delong, a tireless recruiter who praised Samb for his guidance during the transition and “having the faith in me to take over his very established program.” Delong said he and Stout athletic director Duey Naatz and associate athletic director Erin Sullivan will continue to discuss how best to address the need for an assistant coach for the women’s team.
“We haven’t really broken down what that’s going to look like -- whether it is to focus on the women or someone we share between the men and the women,” said Delong, who added Eric Holen -- the boys golf coach and tour director for Western Wisconsin Golf -- as his men’s assistant coach. “We’re going to look long-term, after the spring (season), at hiring someone who can certainly assist with both the recruiting side and the actual management of the golf teams.”
A 2000 UW-Stout graduate, Delong was the boys golf coach at Sheboygan North for 10 seasons, where he was a technology education instructor. Delong led his team to the Wisconsin state golf tournament in 2009, 2017 and 2018.
Delong has served as president, first vice-president and second vice-president of the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin (GCAW) board of directors. He is the chair of the GCAW College Showcase, is a member of the WIAA Golf Coaches Advisory Committee and was the chair of the Ryder Cup 2020 Marshall Committee.
In addition to coaching golf, Delong was an assistant swimming coach, an assistant hockey coach, head volleyball coach and assistant volleyball coach at various times at Sheboygan North. He was an adviser to the North yearbook, newspaper and student council and, in 2018, Delong was selected as the Sheboygan Area Schools teacher of the year.
"Coach Delong is well known not only in the Midwestern golf community, but nationwide," Naatz said. "We know that he will do a great job in expanding our Blue Devil golf programs."
While in his second season with the men's program, Delong has yet to coach a full season. The spring portion of the 2019-20 season was canceled by COVID-19 as was the fall portion of the 2020-21 season.
Stout is one of just two schools in the WIAC that sponsors men's golf (along with UW-Eau Claire). Full schedules for his two programs have yet to be announced for the spring season, but the WIAC Championship — rescheduled from the fall — has been moved to April 30 through May 2 at Reedsburg Country Club.
"I have deep bonds to Wisconsin high school golf and I look forward to continuing to develop those relationships as I get out and scout and recruit talent — whether it is on the men's or the women's side — that best aligns with Stout, our programs' needs and our programs' goals," Delong said.
Delong, who grew up about 18 miles southwest of Menomonie in Elmwood, is married to a Menomonie native. He and his wife, Kate, are the parents of three children — a daughter, Adrianne, and two sons, Cole and Ari.