WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The most-successful coach in Wichita State men’s golf history, Grier Jones, is set to pass the torch to one his most-accomplished players.
Judd Easterling will take over as head coach of the Shocker program, effective June 16, Director of Athletics Darron Boatright announced on Monday.
A two-time honorable mention All-American for the Shockers from 2001-05, Easterling returned to his alma mater in October, 2016 after stops at Missouri and Arizona State and has worked the past three seasons under Jones. He was elevated to associate head coach prior to the 2017-18 season.
“We are very excited to have Judd as our head men’s golf coach,” Boatright said. “He was not only an outstanding player at Wichita State, but he has done a tremendous job working with our young men over the last three seasons as an assistant coach. I’m confident that he will continue to lead the program in a first-class fashion and continue the legacy that Grier Jones has built for the last 24 years.”
Jones – who recently announced his retirement — led the program to 15 conference titles and 16 NCAA regional appearances over 23 years, highlighted by back-to-back NCAA Championship bids in 2003 and 2004. Easterling served as captain on both of those teams and posted a top-10 individual finish at the 2004 championship.
“I think he’s going to step right in and take off,” Jones said of Easterling. “He knows the guys, he knows the people in the program and he knows the people in town. There’s no doubt in my mind that he is going to be successful.”
“When I started as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri for Coach Mark Leroux, I always dreamed about coming back to Wichita State and today that dream comes true. I am extremely grateful for everything that Grier Jones has given me ever since I came to play for him in 2001 and now to coach with him the past three seasons. I look forward to the challenge of leading this program, recruiting great young men and developing them as people and as golfers. I take great pride in wearing the Wichita State logo and I expect us to be challenging for conference titles very soon.”
A four-time all-conference performer, Easterling posted 16 top-five finishes and won five individual titles during his Shocker career. He took part in three NCAA Championships (qualifying individually as a senior in 2005) and was one of 20 golfers named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Centennial Team, spotlighting the league’s most-outstanding performers from 1908-2007.
As a professional, Easterling played in a handful of events on the Adams Tight Lies Tour and reached the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying tournament. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in Sport Management from Wichita State in 2007.
The Dixon, Mo. native cut his coaching teeth with two seasons at Mizzou, where he was the program’s first-ever full-time assistant. In his first season (2013-14), the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Championship for the first time in nine years after a third-place regional finish. A pair of Tigers earned 2014 PING All-American honors. Senior Emilio Cuartero (third team) finished atop the leaderboard at the Columbia Regional and tied for 15th at the national meet. Junior Ryan Zech (honorable mention) posted a ninth-place finish — highest for a Mizzou golfer in over four decades.
Easterling spent the 2015-16 season at national power Arizona State where he helped the Sun Devils win the 2016 Albuquerque Regional title and claim a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championship. Senior Jon Rahm tied for third individually. A consensus first team All-American, Rahm won the PAC 12 individual title, led the nation in stroke average (69.41) and claimed both the Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan Awards, given to college golf’s national player of the year. He’s currently playing on the PGA Tour.
Easterling returned to Wichita as an assistant coach in October, 2016 and made an immediate impact in his first spring, helping the Shockers reclaim the MVC team title and advance to NCAA regional play. A pair Shockers, senior Grant Bennett and sophomore Yannick Emmert, earned all-conference honors, and Emmert was the MVC’s Golfer of the Year.