Three years ago, Matt Ward joined the staff at Colorado Mesa University as the head men’s golf coach, as well as a professor in the sports management department. It is a unique position; most staff members in most other colleges are only offered a teaching position or a coaching job, not both. But, somehow, Ward was able to gain the titles of both occupations.
After high school, Ward attended the University of Minnesota for a few years, but he felt lost. He then joined the Air Force, following in his father’s footsteps. For three years he served in the military.
Soon after, he was offered a job in a retail shop by a close friend of his and began his long journey in the golf business. During the course of 18 years, Ward made his way through a number of different jobs, all relating to golf. He ran retail stores, a few driving ranges, a country club and multiple junior camps.
His love for coaching emerged in the three years when he was a volunteer assistant coach for a women’s golf team in South Carolina. He later did a lot of custom club fitting and lessons for juniors. The final step before becoming part of the staff at CMU was customizing setups for customers looking to purchase golf equipment.
At the young age of seven Ward began playing golf. He was introduced to the sport by his grandfather, whom he was very close with. After playing a few times he was hooked. Throughout his high school years, Ward competed but wasn’t quite at a college playing level when the time came. So he stopped playing until his military days.
During his years in the Air Force, Ward was the director of intramural sports and began to appreciate the tournaments and competitions played in golf. To Ward, one of the appeals of golf comes from the relation it has to real life.
“A lot of times, golf will treat you better than you deserve to be treated,” Ward said. “Sometimes in life, you get lucky. Sometimes you get treated worse than you deserve, just like life. Sometimes you have some bad breaks.”
Along with the similarities to life, Ward feels that golf is a great teacher of patience, problem-solving and the ability to understand that not everything is a huge deal. The course is a great place to develop people skills since there are many people playing at a time.
Before applying to CMU, he had applied for many other coaching jobs, but not many of his applications were considered since he had not played in college. Ward had another job offer before his interview with CMU, but once he visited Grand Junction, he knew this was the right choice.
He was stationed in New Jersey when he was serving in the military, but he disliked all the hustle and bustle of the state. He enjoys the more laid back feel of Colorado, and the ability to have so many different outdoor activities to participate in, all in fairly close proximity to the city. Ward appreciates the strong sense of community that can be found in Grand Junction.
He felt attracted to the personal feel that comes with the community, and he also enjoys the lack of traffic.
One of the major pull factors for Ward was the uniqueness of his position. He not only was able to coach golf but teach a variety of classes each semester. He liked not having the repetition that most teachers or coaches get.
“So, to have the variety of stuff going on here was really attractive,” Ward said. “That it was coaching, which is different every semester, and every year with new players, and then the teaching, it’s different classes every semester with different students every semester.”
Ward claims that this opportunity was made possible because of his schooling and all the experience he had playing golf when he was younger. He was fortunate to fill this position, but it was fairly earned through all of his hard work during the 18 years he worked in retail and other golf business careers.