Times may be a-changing for Oakland University golf program

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published April 19, 2015

ROCHESTER HILLS — In recent years, a genuine rivalry seems to have developed between athletic teams from the University of Detroit Mercy and Oakland University.

The person who may have the most unique perspective regarding that rivalry is Mark Engel. After spending 24 seasons as Detroit’s men’s golf coach, he is now the interim coach at Oakland, as he joined the Golden Grizzlies staff last summer.

“The folks at Oakland have really made me feel welcome,” Engel said.

While with Detroit, Engel was part of seven league championships, which he said is a Horizon League record. Six of those championships came when Engel was the Titans’ head coach.

Oakland has never won a league championship, but Engel would like to help the Golden Grizzlies make some history of their own.

“It’s time for the first one, hopefully,” said Engel, who is a four-time Horizon League Coach of the Year. “We just had to get over the hump. It would mean a lot that the guys worked hard to do something like that. We’re getting there.”

League championships can be a lot easier to come by with talented recruiting classes, and having two golf courses on campus could be just one of the advantages that Oakland has at its disposal when it comes to attracting recruits.

“We’ve got so much,” Engel said. “Our locker rooms are like 50 feet from the putting green. We’ve got a driving range and a beautiful short game area. For the winter, (we have) a simulator in the clubhouse that the guys can go play Pebble Beach one day and St. Andrews the next. You keep adding all these things together — it really is an advantage. It’s not just having courses, but two very nice championship courses, that helps a lot. … Hopefully as time goes on, we can use that more and more to attract players.”

Given the kind of success that he was part of with Detroit, it’s easy to understand why Engel expressed optimism regarding the potential for Oakland’s golf program.

“Another coach called it a ‘sleeping giant’ last week,” he said. “I think it is because there’s so much here. Academically, it’s a great school to attract students. It’s a beautiful campus, and this golf facility should really help the program, too. The potential is here; it’s just time for Oakland to start doing it.”

The Horizon League Championship will take place April 24-26 in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.

The team to come away as league champion will automatically qualify for the NCAA regional in May.