On Feb. 9, UCCS announced both the women’s and men’s golf programs would be canceled following the end of the 2023 season to “ensure the university and departments budget expectations were met.”
In the announcement, executive director of athletics Nathan Gibson said, “It will now be our top priority to make sure that we support our student athletes through this transition.” However, according to UCCS student athletes, the support never came.
Junior golfer Emily Shimkus finished her third and final season as a Mountain Lion, placing third at the RMAC Women’s Golf Tournament. She explained that the coaches sent a text on the morning of Feb. 8 notifying every golfer about a mandatory program meeting. “That’s how we knew it was a big deal,” Shimkus said.
According to redshirt junior Lucas Howell, Gibson didn’t dance around telling the athletes their UCCS career was over. “[He] started the meeting off with ‘There’s no easy way of doing this, but following the spring semester, we will be discontinuing the men’s and women’s golf programs.’”
Shimkus and Howell said the initial emotions following the decision were all over the place, with anger, sadness, anxiety and stress taking precedence. Both the men’s and women’s teams worked hard to get to where they were, and now at the drop of a hat, their futures were unknown.
“We were pretty heartbroken,” Shimkus said, “we got completely blindsided by it.”
Despite the heartbreak, UCCS promised to honor players’ scholarships through the following year and would do everything possible to assist them in transferring universities and finding scholarships.
However, Shimkus explained that the university’s assistance didn’t extend past the transfer portal. “I already renewed my lease for the next year thinking that I was going to be here, along with, I believe, four other student athletes,” she said. “I asked if I could use my scholarship money to help pay off my lease, and they said no … All they did was send an email.”
As a result, Shimkus said she is now left to sublet or pay the $9,000 required to fulfill her lease. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t have nine grand laying around while I’m still trying to pay for college,” she said.
Following the mandatory program meeting, Howell said the university didn’t offer any chances to save the program despite the teams’ efforts to raise more money. “We were able to raise $250,000 … from like big businessmen in the city,” he said.
However, despite donors from the community getting behind the Mountain Lion golfers, their attempts to rekindle the ashes of the program were still ignored according to Howell.
This situation has been difficult for student athletes and coaches to navigate. Some plan to graduate at the end of the semester, but many still have eligibility — so with such short notice and a reportedly minimal amount of help from the university, their athletic careers are being put on hold until they can find another program willing to take them.
However, since summer is just around the corner, many programs have already signed all the golfers they need. This leaves UCCS’ student golfers with very few options. Howell intends to transfer to Montana State University and shared some of his teammates’ plans as well. James Perry signed with Midwestern State, and Brady Haake and Shimkus signed with Murry State.
Shimkus said she understands that institutions have to make tough decisions, but that the limited assistance given to students following the discontinuation of UCCS Golf has been disappointing. “[It] makes us feel like we’ve been nothing but a number to them,” she said.
Despite the rapid ending to his golf career at UCCS, Howell is leaving with a positive attitude about the whole experience. “I’ve made a lot of memories with the guys on the team that I’ll never forget, and I have no regrets of coming to this university to play collegiate golf.”
Although the golf program will no longer continue at UCCS, both the men’s and women’s teams wrapped the semester up in spectacular fashion. Redshirt senior Travis Bossio led the men’s team placing third at the RMAC tournament. The team’s third place finish earned them the No. 9 seed in the South Central/West Regional tournament for the second consecutive year.
The women’s team finished fifth in the RMAC tournament, with Shimkus placing third, and junior Samantha Saile tied for 12th. Along with their success on the course, half of the both the men’s and women’s team made the All-Academic Honor Roll, with Bossio earning RMAC Men’s Golf Academic Player of the Year.
The Regional Tournament takes place in Rohnert Park, CA from May 11-13. Students can get live updates on the tournament here.
Photo from gomountainlions.com.