For the first time in more than 24 years, Wichita State golf will have a new man at the helm. Following Grier Jones’s retirement in June, WSU hired former Shocker Judd Easterling to lead the team.
During his time at WSU, Easterling was a captain during both the 2003 and 2004 NCAA Championship teams while scoring a top-10 individual finish in 2004.
Upon graduation, Easterling became an assistant coach at Arizona State and then at the University of Missouri. He returned to WSU in 2016 as an assistant coach under Jones, a position he held for three years.
“It was a no-brainer to come back to Wichita,” Easterling told The Sunflower Wednesday. “The transition has been pretty seamless. Obliviously, I learned a lot coaching under him for the past three years. It was a good summer recruiting. Guys are back qualifying, so it’s been a pretty easy transition.”
Since taking over as head coach, Easterling has focused on instilling a new team culture.
“We’ve been preaching positivity, focused on the team culture,” Easterling said. “The guys are all getting along. We have eight good kids here. The guys are all starting to buy-in. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year.”
After losing two seniors in the offseason, Yannik Emmert and Adrien Michellod, Eastering said he has seen two players step up and lead by example.
“[Zac Owens] is not a real vocal leader, but he shot 19 under par through seven rounds,” Easterling said. “Freshman Joe Bultman came in here and qualified second. Those two guys are pushing each other and the guys after them are pushing to try and close the gap. We don’t have a vocal leader, but we have guys that lead by example — guys that are doing the right thing we are expecting around here.”
With so many new faces in the program, Easterling and his coaching staff decided to have a team bonding trip in hopes of building up team chemistry.
“We took a good team-building trip to the Lake of the Ozarks a couple of weekends ago — played some golf, had some nice team dinners, and I think the guys really enjoyed it,” he said.
Easterling said he expects to build off the success at last year’s Joe Feaganes Marshall Invitational in the team’s first tournament of the year.
“We are going into an event that last year we won the team title and the individual title, so it’s a golf course that three of the guys know well,” Easterling said. “It’s a familiar place that we will continue to go back to after having some success last year. I just hope to get off to a good start, hope the guys can build some confidence and see what happens.”