AMITE--The Southeastern Louisiana University Lions men's golf program is an international one that is headed by Tim Baldwin, who came to the university as a Lion golfer in 1983. He's been playing since age 8.
He joined the Lions staff in 1988 and is now assistant athletic director. He recruits globally and heads the university's efforts in sports marketing, sponsorships, business relationships, fundraising and advertising.
His philosophy is simple: "In golf, you try to locate and identify quality student athletes who want to get degrees and play at the next level. We have a dozen or so who are now playing at the professional level," he says proudly.
Former student Brent Bergeron of LaPlace, a two-time All-American, is now in the final stages of qualifying for PGA tour school.
Lions golfers have won 40+ team championships and more individual honors during Baldwin's tenure.
Baldwin must look far beyond Louisiana.
"I've targeted international players. Louisiana doesn't produce enough quality players," he said. One reason: there aren't a lot of public courses. And some high schools don't seem to emphasize golf.
"Whether a kid is from Ponchatoula, La. or Johannesburg, South Africa, they're still kids," Baldwin says.
Why Southeastern in Hammond?
"They come here to get a degree, learn a new language and culture and go on professionally," he said.
You can find Baldwin and his 8-man team practicing at Carter Plantation in Springfield 20 hours a week, usually in the afternoons after a morning of classes. NCAA limits team practices to 20 hours. The Lions have a private practice area in back at Carter. And they have privileges at 8 to 10 golf courses in the North Shore.
The NCAA also limits Southeastern to four and a half scholarships, so Baldwin isn't able to give every team member a full-ride. Two more international team members will join Southeastern next year.
What about women golfers?
"All guys right now. We don't have a women's program," says Baldwin. "If she can play, she can play for me."
What about some free golf tips, coach?
Baldwin offers to join the next Amite Rotary-Amite Kiwanis Golf Scramble with some of his players. "Just feed us."
What does he focus on with players?
--"They go through a period of homesickness, so I have to help."
--"In college golf, it's a team sport." Many of the international students are used to playing as individuals. "I have to make sure they understand they are on a team."
--"In the end, it's all about consistency, day in and day out. One bad shot, one bad swing doesn't make the day."
--Only the top 5 golfers travel. "They have to win the opportunity to play for that week on the road," he said.
--"Most European countries are smaller than the US. They have national teams, with the best of everything," he said. That's not the case in the US.
Baldwin was joined by Ashley Winning, director of development, Athletics. "Winning--as in the Lions winning," she quipped.
She brought the huge River Bell Classic trophy that football coach Ron Roberts and his Lions won against Nicholls State recently. "Ron Roberts has come in and won five conference games in his first year," she said.
Winning is all about fundraising--to help coaches travel in recruiting, for athletic facilities, compensation for coaches. "We are looking to build new video boards so that businesses can show their support and market their businesses," she said.
Southeastern volleyball has a strong year. "Southeastern soccer continues to contend for the Southland Conference. And men's and women's basketball is starting up strong with pre-season now," she said.
"Southeastern is turning around. The better the Lions do, the better Southeastern does, the more businesses come here," she said.
Baldwin and Winning both look to Southeastern Lions graduates to give back to their school with donations. "Our young people are excited to leave their legacy," she said.
Winning joined Southeastern after a career at LSU that included game management and game operations and leading the L Club for former LSU athletes.
"It's more important than ever that we have your support. Come out to the games. We need to be able to travel and recruit. We need players to win," she said.
On the Web:
Winning phone: 985-549-5226