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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Golf team fights for survival

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Sports

With the fallout of the economic downturn and ramifications of He Who Must Not Be Named’s ponzi scheme still being felt, the University has launched into the difficult and painful process of cutting costs. Two months removed from their best performances of the season, the Brandeis golf team received the news Monday that they would be suspended as a varsity program following the spring 2009 season.

“It kind of came as a shock to us,” golfer Lee Bloom ’10 said, “but we’re trying to be positive about the situation, we’re trying to raise the money so we have hope.”

“Basially Jehuda Reinharz is coming out with a statement in which… the board of trustees met and all the administration and just every part of the university had to implement cuts,” Aaron Hattenbach ‘09 said. “So we had a meeting with [athletics Director] Sheryl [Sousa]…she’s sorry that this was needed to happen due to the fact that we’re only a ten person team.” He went on to explain that since the golf team coach also coaches the fencing team, that it made the most sense to cut loose golf to avoid having to fire a coach in the process. “But I feel like–and this is the sentiment of most of my teammates–that right now, we all feel pretty shafted.”

According to the golf coach, Bill Shipman, the decision had actually been made long before the team was told by Sousa. In fact, the news probably would have been kept quiet longer but although all involved were sworn to secrecy, rumors got out and the decision was made to address them. According to Hattenbach, the rumors had been around far longer and learning the news only this week has brought little comfort to Hattenbach and the golf team. Even more pressing, the team doesn’t even know the final deadline to raise the funds need.

As Hattenbach explained, “At least to my knowledge the swim team had a good amount of time to put together some fundraising schemes. So now, we’re facing this issue of we don’t. I’ve contacted the athletic director to find out a date which we need to have the money and raise and we still don’t have a date on that.”

No one in athletics has escaped the economic fallout; besides golf, swimming will also be shut down, a victim of a “perfect storm” of unfortunate circumstances – namely the break down of Linsey Pool. One other “small” sport is also being phased out though no one will go on record as to which sport it is. The big sports like basketball have been forced to leave players behind on road trips to save money on travel fare.

However, no one on the golf team is throwing in the towel, or rather chucking the five iron any time soon. The team hopes to be able to raise the approximately $22,000 necessary to keep the program running through the 2009-10 golf season. “I can tell you this” Aaron said, “we’re working with former Brandeis golfers that have graduated in the past couple of years and I’ve got money pledged to the program. This team is serious about continuing.”

Asked why the university wanted to delay the announcement, Shipman guessed, “They probably wanted to avoid a firestorm of controversy right before the holidays. I think also they’re waiting for final approval of the cuts from the board of trustees, which I think happened this week, so everything wasn’t finalized until recently.”

Compounding the disappointment was that the development comes after the Brandeis golf team enjoyed what has been described by members of the team as their best season ever.

“The golf team had been improving rapidly,” Shipman said, “Our recruiting’s going better, our results were better. We had one golfer this fall who was one of the best golfers in New England. So you know things were looking up and we were becoming…one of the top teams in New England. Not the very best but knocking on the door – five or six best teams, I was looking forward to continuing that.”

While the team scrambles to raise the funds and beat the clock, underclassmen like Aaron Cusato ’12 are left trying to figure out what their next step is, whether they can continue to be Brandeis students when the sport that brought them here is no longer available. “I haven’t made a decision yet whether I’m going or staying,” Cusato said, “we’re trying to figure out if we can raise enough money to keep it going.”

“If we survive one year, we can continue on,” Hattenbach stated about what was at stake. “If we can’t get through this one year, there is the likelihood Brandeis golf doesn’t exist for a decade. If you quit on it right now, what’s the likelihood that the school is going to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to the golf program? Their priorities are set on academics and the institution but not necessarily small, individual varsity teams so that itself is a problem and that’s why I feel it’s really pertinent to keep the program running one more year and give hope.”