Team speaks about struggles retaining coaches, concerns for future competition
Head Men’s & Women’s Golf Coach Bradley Johnson announced he would be leaving in two weeks at the golf team’s first practice of the season on Feb. 21.
Lewis & Clark hired Johnson in January 2022, with many in the athletics community hopeful for the impact he would have for the program. Johnson had a reputation for improving collegiate programs: He took New York University’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. Now, Johnson is returning to New York where his wife was offered a lucrative job opportunity.
After responding to a request for an interview, Johnson canceled numerous times due to personal complications. Johnson stopped replying by the time of publication.
According to Director of Physical Education and Athletics Mark Pietrok, Johnson’s resignation comes at a challenging time, but athletics is focused on making the best of the situation.
“There’s no question this is a setback for us,” Pietrok said. “Right now, my key consideration first is that the current student athletes have a good experience and I’m committed to that.”
Moving forward, coaches from other teams at LC will help support the golfers, each with varying golf backgrounds and experience.
Pietrok, and many others, were surprised at Johnson’s leave. However, for Eli Jamieson ’23 who has seen constant turnover in his four years on the golf team, the announcement was less jarring.
“I really like Brad as a person,” Jamieson said. “But I was on the committee, as everyone kind of was on the golf team to find a new coach and interview new coaches – I think that it was clear from Brad’s resume that he hadn’t been at a school for more than a couple of years. So no, I would say I’m not surprised.”
Jamieson said he has had over three coaches in his time at LC. According to him, there has been very little consistency with practices and few members on the team. The current first year players are the first recruits since Jamieson’s cohort was scouted. Recruiting is an essential part of having a properly sized and competitive team.
“Personally, I just feel bad for the freshmen,” Jamieson said. “Because they’re going to have to go through, I think a similar situation that I’ve gone through the last four years.”
Roberta Moore ’26, known by many as Rita, has played golf since she was five and has aspirations to compete professionally. Initially, Moore was very impressed with Johnson and previous members of the team when they visited her home course in Washington.
“(It’s) pretty irritating and frustrating because he’s one of the reasons why I came here,” Moore said. “Then, we have so few girls on the team anymore.”
Currently the women’s team has two members: Moore and Ava Frison ’25. This is below the five player minimum for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams, however Pietrok said the women’s players will compete individually.
For Moore, not having a dedicated coach and having to compete individually is a significant challenge.
“I definitely do see myself going as long as I can,” Moore said. “That’s why I’m saying I need a coach that actually helps me through everything so I can go where I want to go. I actually do see myself getting to pro status.”
Though Jamieson does not have the same aspirations, he has observed the golf program lacking the active coaching and consistency that would help Moore improve.
“How I play and how I do and how I perform is mostly dictated by myself, but it certainly hasn’t been easy to play,” Jamieson said. “Just comparing the Lewis & Clark golf team to other schools that we compete against, it seems that they have very regimented schedules and a level of consistency that I’ve never received. In anything you do, it is easier to perform and do better when you can expect some level of consistency.”
According to Pietrok, Johnson’s resignation also poses an issue with the recruits lined up for the class of 2027.
“It’s unfortunate and I wish it didn’t happen because we were very excited with what he’s doing,” Pietrok said. “He’s got a pretty robust recruiting class right now, but that’s always tricky when a coach leaves. They’re the person that the student-athletes develop the relationship with primarily.”
While Moore has been thinking about leaving LC since her first semester on campus, she cites the challenges the golf team have been facing as the final straw. Moore intends to transfer to a DI or DII school.
“I love everybody that I have met here; the people are wonderful,” Moore said. “There’s so many different, unique, beautiful people that I met here and I’m gonna truly miss this. It’s just that there’s not a lot of opportunities for people like me who are people of color. There’s not really diversity up in here. There’s not really a community. I don’t feel a community and that’s what I would like to have while being an athlete and a student.”