Brad Rickel, men's and women's golf coach at Gonzaga University during the 1998-99 season, returned 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.
And it hasn't taken him long to take the Bulldogs to one of the elite teams in the West Coast Conference as 2011 and 2012 were seasons of firsts for the Bulldogs.
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 in sophomore Victoria Fallgren 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 Stephanie 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.
Five of the top six scoring averages have come in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Fallgren set a school record with her 76.1 average in 2012 to better the 76.5 by Mary Kate Morgan in 2006. Fallgren also has the No. 3 spot with her 76.6 in 2011, followed by Alice Kim's 76.8 in 2012, Howe's 77.2 in 2011 and Tai Jade 'TJ' Kliebphipat's 77.3 in '11. The team average of 308.2 clipped the 2011 record of 309.2 by a full stroke. The Bulldogs also cracked the top 100 in the national rankings in 2011, checking in at No. 97 in the Golfweek rankings and closing in on the Top 100 in Golfstat with a 105 ranking in 2011. The Bulldogs improved in both polls in 2012 with an 85 ranking in Golfweek and jumping all the way to 82 in the 2012 Golfstat rankings.
The big news in 2012, however, came in the WCC Championship when Fallgren won a playoff on the first hole to become the first Bulldogs - male or female - to claim WCC Championship medalist honors. For the second straight year the Bulldogs had two players on the All-WCC first team as Fallgren and Corey were named to the squad, Corey finishing ninth in the WCC Championship. Gonzaga finished third after entering the final round just two shots out of the lead.
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.
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 896 in 2009 at the CU Heather Farr Memorial, and the 2011 team posted the second-best score with a 902 at the University of Colorado Mountain View Collegiate.
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.
And Rickel thinks he can raise Gonzaga to the same level. If 2011 and 2012 are any indication, the Bulldogs would seem to be well on their way.
"My last year at Gonzaga was the year the men's basketball team went to the NCAA Elite Eight and the athletic department has taken off since. I left before it got going, but I've watched it grow. I've always been a Zags fan and it as fun to watch the department keep growing and growing," Rickel said. "It's a completely different place then when I left."
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).