Talk about a quick response.
Only three days after it was publicly revealed that former Penn men’s golf head coach Bob Heintz would be , the University announced on Friday afternoon that his position would be filled by former Penn golfer and 2010 College graduate Michael Blodgett for at least the remainder of the 2016-17 season.
“I am very excited and honored to accept the role of interim head men’s golf coach at my alma mater,” Blodgett said in a Penn Athletics press release. “I know Penn, the Ivy League, and the college golf world extremely well, and I look forward to helping the players excel both on the golf course and in the classroom. The goal of the program has always been to win the Ivy League Championship, and that goal has not changed. Coach Heintz has done a tremendous job leading the Quakers, and I’m looking forward to building on his past success.”
Citing a desire to compete at the highest level of college golf, Heintz departed Penn after a five-year career that included the 2015 Ivy League Championship and the 2014 City Six Championship, leaving the Red and Blue to scramble to find a replacement with the March 6th season-opener rapidly approaching.
Fortunately, Athletic Director M. Grace Calhoun didn’t have to look too far for the next man in charge. Blodgett played for four years at Penn and was a part of the school’s second ever Ivy League title-winning squad in 2007, before he raised the ante even further by becoming Penn’s first ever individual conference champion a year later.
“Before I signed the paperwork yesterday, I got to campus a little early and I walked around campus and kind of took it all in; I’ve been on campus many times since I graduated, but this was different,” Blodgett told the DP on Saturday. “It’s an incredible honor to be asked by your alma mater to come back and lead the team that has meant so much to me and my family over the last 12 years, so yeah, it was an easier decision because it was Penn.”
Making matters even better for the current edition of the Red and Blue, Blodgett does have a bit of experience coaching in University City, having served a volunteer assistant coach for Penn in 2010 under then-head coach Scott Allen before embarking on a brief professional career.
Following his athletic career, Blodgett built his rapport with the Red and Blue program even further with his role as the Northeast Region Coordinator for the College Golf Fellowship from 2012 to 2016. Though not technically employed by Penn or any other individual college program in the area, Blodgett often attended the Quakers’ tournaments and practices over these recent years, allowing him to create relationships with the team’s current personnel that both he and his players expect to pay off dividends this season.
“My previous job was in the college golf world, and I helped alongside college golfers and coaches in the area, so I’ve seen the Penn guys quite a bit,” Blodgett said. “I don’t think it was any surprise that I was asked to step in and lead this team the rest of the way; I’ve seen these guys play a lot of golf, I’ve been to many of their tournaments over the past three to four years and spent a lot of time at their practice facility. ... the guys on the team have a great relationship with me, and I with them, so I’m hoping that this makes that transition pretty smooth.”
The current team was notified of the change in a private meeting on Friday afternoon. Unsurprisingly, the Quakers were unanimously in favor of the hiring decision, also citing their familiarity with Blodgett as a major advantage.
“We weren’t surprised necessarily, because he’s been very involved over the last couple of years; we all kind of thought in the back of our minds that he would be the perfect candidate, and little did we know that’d be how it would end up,” sophomore Josh Goldenberg said. “We weren’t surprised, but more just happy that it had been finalized.”
“We were all pretty excited, pretty pumped. He’s someone that we know pretty well and are pretty comfortable with, so it makes it that much smoother of a transition that it’s someone who has been around the program as much as he has,” junior Carter Thompson added. “It definitely gives us a piece of mind to know that we’ve got something in place; it kind of lets us go back to doing our regular thing, working hard and getting ready for the season now.”
According to Blodgett, there’s been no discussion about his future with the program beyond 2017.
“I haven’t really thought about it, and I’m going to use the next couple of months to think about it; my commitment for now as an interim coach is to give my entire energy to supporting these guys during this transition,” Blodgett said. “I know that my role is to continue to encourage these guys through somewhat of a stunning coaching change, and my goal is to be completely committed to these guys for the time being. ... We’ll make the decision coaching-wise, if I want to throw my name in that hat, at the end of the season.”
In the meantime, the Red and Blue will approach their season with renewed enthusiasm, hungry for redemption for last season’s disappointing seventh-place finish in conference play.
And though the players understandably shared a deep connection with their departed former leader, both Blodgett and his athletes remain confident that he can be the guy to guide them back to the promised land.
“I know the culture here, the goals that not just the team but the athletic administration are striving to achieve; excellence on the golf course but also excellence in the classroom, those are all goals I had as a player,” Blodgett said. “The main goal hasn’t changed; our goal is still to win the Ivy League championship, and I’m just going to bring a different voice. Bob has had great success with this program, and no one is trying to take away from the foundation that he has laid, so it’s really my job to pick up where he left off.”
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