When Michael Wilson was hired in May, Long Beach State athletic director Andy Fee said he would “energize” the men’s golf program. It was one of the many moves Fee made in his first few months in charge of LBSU athletics, and Wilson is poised to show that his appointment as head coach was a good one.
“I was really really excited and being from California, I’ve had my eye on this place for a while,” Wilson said about taking the job. “I think it’s a program that can be one of the top in the country. The big thing will be establishing a culture of hard work, improvement and a love of the game.”
Wilson, 33, was born in Pacific Grove, California, and grew up immersed in the game of golf. He went on to play at California where he was awarded the Pac-10 conference freshman of the year in 2003, and was part of the 2004 Golden Bears team that won the National Championship. After a decorated college career, Wilson played for three years on the Canadian Professional Golf Tour.
“It was always what I wanted to do and saw myself doing as I grew up,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t good enough, but I was able to learn a lot from that and knew I couldn’t leave the game so I started teaching.”
Wilson was the head pro at the Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, California before beginning his career as a college golf assistant coach at the University of Washington, where he spent three seasons and helped the Huskies to a National Championship appearance in 2015. His success as a coach led a phone call from Fee last spring and Wilson accepted the offer of head coach and began the transition.
One of the biggest challenges Wilson has gone through in the transition process happened away from the golf course. He and his wife, Courtney, had their first child together before the move to Long Beach. Welcoming young Ben Wilson to the world was only part of the fun during the move.
“I just did the three hardest things in life all at once but it was fun!” Wilson said. “I had a kid, moved and took on a new job — but everyday has brought something new with it and I feel like the luckiest man in the world.”
The LBSU players have received the shift in direction of the men’s golf program in a positive manner and are excited to begin a new era.
“The practices and qualifiers are way different than last year as far as how much we are practicing and how smart we prepare,” junior Andres Gonzalez said. “It’s going to help us in the long term and the team is moving in the right direction.”
Wilson claims to have derived his coaching philosophy from the many coaches he has played for and worked with throughout his life in golf. Finding a formula that works is very important to the success of the program.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the most technical guy, but I’m creative in the way I run practices and challenge the guys every day,” Wilson said. “Anytime you can make a guy think and think differently on the course is really powerful.”
When it comes to Wilson’s goals as head coach, he has high aspirations for what happens on the course as well as the impact LBSU men’s golf has on the community.
“I want to build this program into a national contender and leave it in a more financially stable than when I came in,” Wilson said. “This is a massive golf community and a golf city. You look back at what happened with the Dirtbags and the huge response to the program they had, and I want that same emotional tie in with our golf program.”
Wilson’s youth along with the exuberance he has already implemented as head coach should be just what Fee and the men’s golf program have been looking for. As for what Wilson is looking to gain from his tenure at LBSU, he is ready to give back to the game that has given him so much.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have been influenced by great parents and coaches throughout my life,” Wilson said. “They really helped me in my career and if I can help others like they did, it will be a life worth living for me.”