In January, Brad Johnson was named as the new head coach for the men’s and women’s golf team. Johnson, who is from Colorado, coached at the University of La Verne during the 2019-20 season.
Having previously coached at New York University (NYU) and Millsaps College, which he led to top national rankings, Johnson said Lewis & Clark drew his attention in part because of its location and strong emphasis on academics.
“It was a combination of being with a great university at Lewis & Clark, and then being in a situation where I think my family and myself would be a little happier,” Johnson said.
Johnson described feeling passionate about golf from the moment he first picked up a set of clubs. As a maintenance crew worker cutting grass at a golf course, he would often play in the afternoons when the work was done, and picked up the sport quickly. He went on to play in high school and in college for the University of Colorado and Colorado State University.
As a head coach, Johnson earned himself a reputation for improving collegiate programs. He took NYU’s men’s team from being 130th in the nation for more than a decade to 8th in the country, and coached their women’s team to a national championship in 2019. At Millsaps, he experienced similar team success.
Now at LC, Johnson’s aim is to build up the program so that it can eventually be successful on a national scale.
“We want to be a top program, and that’s my goal,” Johnson said. “I really feel like we can be successful on both the men’s and women’s side.”
Johnson stresses the importance of taking a holistic approach to coaching student athletes, which means caring about more than their level of play. He always makes sure to check up on the other aspects of their lives, whether it be internships or academics. To this day, he still gets calls from former players long after he stopped coaching them.
Johnson has carried this mentality with him to LC. Although he has not had the opportunity to recruit yet, he is very pleased with the student athletes currently on his roster.
“To have the group that I have here … I just feel really, really lucky,” Johnson said. “They’re great, I mean just great. I think what makes the student athletes so amazing is they appreciate what I’m trying to do, and they let me know that. They’re caring and they’re kind, and they’re gracious and they’re smart, and I think that’s what makes our group so fantastic.”
On March 5, the Pioneers competed in the Spring Trilogy Number One Tournament for their first official competition of the spring season. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished in third place, shooting +26 and +115 respectively. Two LC players cracked the top ten individually, with Kamryn Ford ’22 finishing sixth on the women’s team and Alex Hong ’24 finishing third for the men’s team.
All in all, Johnson sees this outing as being a “benchmark” given the strong performance of the team. The Pios will look to carry this momentum into their next matchup, where they will square off in the Pacific Dual meet on March 12 and March 13 at the Quail Valley Golf Course.
Olivia Weaver ’22, who finished thirteenth overall with a score of 99 in the tournament, spoke very highly of her teammates’ play, noting that Johnson’s supportive demeanor set a positive tone for the team.
“I think that this tournament went pretty well, as far as our first one with a new coach,” Weaver said. “I feel like Brad really brings a good energy to the team. He can be kind of silly sometimes which is pretty fun and it kept everyone lighthearted, which I definitely feel like we needed for starting the season out.”
As a senior playing in her final season, Weaver is excited to be playing under Johnson, who has been highly supportive of his players. When asked what ultimately motivates him as a coach, Johnson insists that the deeply rewarding part of the experience are the connections he is able to make with athletes like Weaver.
“The part of my job that is the hardest is the recruiting, the paperwork, the budgets – all the little nitty gritty stuff, the small detail stuff that goes into my job,” Johnson said. “You got to wear a lot of hats as a head coach. But the one thing that makes my job worth it is them…It’s the relationships that I build with my student athletes.”