Brad Rickel, men's and women's golf coach at Gonzaga University during the 1998-99 season, has the program on the upswing, the Bulldogs making back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Regional in 2013 and ’14.
After returning to the Bulldogs for the 2007-08 season as the women's golf coach after eight years in the same capacity at the University of Idaho, it didn’t take him long to establish the Bulldogs as a contender not only in the West Coast Conference but on the national scene as well.
Gonzaga finished second in the WCC Championship in 2014 for the second straight year and for the third time in four years with a WCC Championship school record 894, breaking the mark of 899 set in 2013. And for the second straight season the Bulldogs earned a second straight at-large berth into the NCAA Regional, this time being sent to the West Regional in DuPont, Wash., just across the state from Spokane.
Alice Kim captured WCC medalist honors in 2014, the second Bulldog in three years to do so after Victoria Fallgren won a playoff to capture the 2012 individual title. Four Bulldogs earned All-WCC recognition in 2014 led by Kim, Raychelle Santos and freshman Ciera Min on the first time and Han Wu capturing honorable mention accolades. Rickel captured Coach of the Year honors for the fourth straight year..
The success of 2014 followed on the heels of 2013 which saw the Bulldogs win four tournaments and finish second and third in two others. The Bulldogs finished second in the WCC, but just six shots of perennial power Pepperdine. Santos, named WCC Freshman of the Year, was named to the All-WCC team along with teammates Victoria Fallgren, Kim and Wu. It was the third straight honor for Fallgren.
The regular-season accomplishments of 2013 were rewarded when Gonzaga landed its inaugural berth to the NCAA Regional at Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, Okla. The Bulldogs finished 19th but the relatively young squad got a taste of the post season and a hunger for more.
The 2012 season became a turning point as Fallgren became the inaugural Bulldog to capture a WCC title. Gonzaga finished third in the team chase. Fallgren and senior Stephanie Corey earned All-WCC accolades and Rickel was named Coach of the Year.
The Bulldogs finished second in the West Coast Conference Championship in 2011, breaking a 14-year stronghold in which Pepperdine University and the University of San Francisco had finished first or second. Gonzaga's 54-hole score of 916 set a school record for the WCC Championship. For the first time in program history the Bulldogs had two All-West Coast Conference first-team selections Fallgren, a sophomore, and freshman Tai Jade ‘TJ’ Kliebphipat. And for the first time the Bulldogs had all five players in the WCC Championship recognized as senior Sage Suffecool and juniors Corey and Jessica Howe were accorded honorable mention recognition. Also for the first time in program history the Bulldogs had the WCC Coach of the Year in Rickel.
Suffecool and Corey were honorable mention selections in 2010. The first time the Bulldogs had multiple honorees was 2006 when Mary Kate Morgan was a first-team selection and Lacey Jo Manwaring received honorable mention recognition.
Eight of the top nine individual scoring averages have come since 2010 and the top seven spots have been established since 2012. Santos and Fallgren set the top two school marks in 2013, Santos at 74.34 and Fallgren at 74.59. Kim and Min hold the three (74.72) and four (74.88) spots, respectively, set in 2014, with Kim sitting at No. 5 with her 75.62 in 2013. Santos is sixth with a 75.69 in 2014 and Fallgren seventh (76.23) in 2012 and ninth (76.58) in 2010. Mary Kate Morgan is eighth at 76.48 in 2006.
The top five team averages have also been set since 2010, including the school record of 299.91 in 2014 as the Bulldogs dipped under the 300 barrier for the first time. The 2013 squad is second at 300.38, the 2012 club is third at 308.17, the 2011 team is fourth at 309.19 and the 2010 Bulldogs are fifth at 310.20.
The Bulldogs have also made great strides in the national rankings. After cracking the top 100 in 2011, the 2014 version of the Bulldogs finished 49th in the Golfweek rankings and 58th in the Golfstat rankings. The Bulldogs were ranked in the Top 50 of both polls during the season.
Fallgren, who came to Gonzaga after an outstanding junior career in California, also accomplished a first in her collegiate debut, winning the 2009 Bulldog and Eagle Invitational at Spokane's Hangman Valley Golf Course. She did so with a school-record 67 in the final round, one day after Suffecool had tied the school mark with a 70. Santos also burst onto the collegiate scene as a freshman, matching the school record 67 on the final day of the Oregon State University Invitational and setting a school mark for her 54-hole score of 215.
In his first season back the Bulldogs won the UC Santa Cruz Invitational and the freshman Suffecool captured medalist honors. Freshman Rachel Sibbitt finished 11th at the West Coast Conference Tournament, the highest Bulldog finisher.
Sibbitt tied for second in the 2009 WCC Championship and earned All-WCC honors, and Rickel's recruiting brought in two more top junior players for the 2009 season in Corey and Howe. Corey won the 15th annual Washington State Golf Association Women's Amateur in the summer of 2008.
It didn't take Corey and Howe long to prove their worth as they finished with the top two stroke averages on the team in 2009, Howe with a 77.6 and Corey with a 78.2. The Bulldogs set a then-school record with a 311.9 team average.
Gonzaga set a 54-hole tournament record with its 882 in the 2012-13 season at the WSU Cougar Cup, then broke the mark again that same season with an 862 at the Challenge at Onion Creek. Nine of the top 10 54-hole scores have been set since 2011.
Rickel built the Vandals into one of the top programs on the West Coast. In 2007 the Vandal women captured the Western Athletic Conference title, placed 12th at the NCAA Regionals and had an individual advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Vandals qualified either an individual or a team for the NCAA Regionals seven of the eight years he was at the helm of the men's and women's programs. The women earned regional qualifying in 2001 and 2002, with the men advancing to the Regionals in 2000 after capturing the Big West Conference title. The women won the Big West crown in 2001.
In his eight years at Idaho the Vandal women won 19 tournaments with 16 runner-up finishes, while the men captured eight tournament titles and were runner-up seven times. He had 21 women and seven men earn either first or second team all-conference honors. Off the course he had 29 conference all-academic selections and five academic All-Americans.
Rickel has also taken his knowledge to the professional level as the instructor for Spokane-born Ryan Benzel at the PGA Championship from 2007-10.
The native of Spokane who attended Gonzaga Prep, Gonzaga University for two years and graduated from Eastern Washington University holds a Class A PGA Professional status. He has golf course experience, working at Spokane's Manito Golf and Country Club as first assistant PGA Golf Professional from 1994-98 and at the Creek at Qualchan in Spokane as assistant PGA Golf Professional in 1999.
His wife, Karen, is an assistant professor in the Department of Sport and Physical Education at Gonzaga. They are the parents of Darby (2002) and Madison (2005).