By Joe Arruda
The six of them sit in a Springfield College white Toyota Sienna minivan.
With head coach Joe Eadie at the wheel, five Pride golfers accompany him in the back of the van. Donning their gray “MASCAC Champions” T-shirts, they head back to Alden Street.
While the van cruises in the left lane, the persistent vexatious click of the left blinker is audible in the ears of the golfers, but Eadie doesn’t seem to notice.
“Coach, your blinker is on,” one of them will say, some 15 minutes later.
Eadie flicks his blinker off, cracks a joke, and continues driving.
They have that relationship.
Players are not worried about his reaction, they just wait for his next joke.
And that relationship translates to the course.
“Whenever I’m playing bad, I always try to look for him, which is kind of weird, to just pick me up and just joke around with him because me and him have that relationship,” senior Mike Strong said. “I can go to him and roast him and he’ll give it back to me a little bit and I kind of like that. I look at him as a coach and a role model, but to have that relationship where we can be friendly, and not him looking down on me, it’s like an equal playing field.”
Corey Roya, a sophomore, added, “He’s been big this year, and at the end of last year, at just making outrageous statements in the van rides that just make people laugh.”
Eadie, a Fenway professional and a coach in his 27th season, has not lost his sense of humor or his golf abilities.
Strong said, “He beat me with my own clubs one time and I still shot like two under, he shot three under. So he’s a pretty good golfer. And that’s kind of been the joke around. He’s been running away from me ever since he beat me that time, he’s kind of soft.”
Being born in Negril Beach, Jamaica, golf was not the future that Eadie expected to have.
“Jamaica was known for cricket, soccer, and track and field. That’s what we do, and that was it. We never played a ‘golf’,” he said. “I was invested at Springfield for 27, probably invested in golf for 35 years maybe.”
After losing his father to cancer when he was just 3 years old, Eadie and his three siblings moved to Springfield with his single mother when he was just a young teenager.
“My mom was a disciplinarian, a mother and a father in the same shot,” he said. “I figured it out really fast, Mom was very big on having manners. She was very big on making sure thank you, please, and knowing how to act. I think she did a pretty good job.”
His players would agree. His laid back, hands-off, coaching style is one that sits well with the young golfers whom he passes along his knowledge and experience.
“He’s hands-off in a good way. I’m the type of player where nobody knows my swing better than my swing,” Strong said. “I don’t like a lot of people getting in my head when it comes to that. I might ask for advice and stuff like that, but he is very hands-off and knows when to talk to you at the right time.”
Roya added, “He’ll only help you if you want it. He is not the type of coach that’ll be in your face and try to change every single thing that you’re doing. He’ll tell you that if you want the help or if you need something, go to him. He is not going to be in your face and get in your head and do all that kind of stuff just because golf is 90 percent mental. He doesn’t want to mess with that part of it.”
“When you do go to him, he does everything he can, and it’s perfect.”
And Eadie sees the results years down the line.
Investing several hours each day, for weeks at a time, into young adults, teaching them not only the sport aspect, but also forging them into young men the Springfield College way, the rewards come later. Those rewards keep coaches going.
“In the past 10 years being here, watching and hearing my graduating seniors have gone on and one or two years later I get a call from some high school or college looking to hire those kids. Them using me as a reference, and my word counts to watching those kids end up getting a job, that is big to me. That’s telling me that it’s trickling down the line, that is big,” Eadie said.
After 27 years, he has seen several athletes move on from the program, but what remains with them is the person he is and the intelligent and playful guidance he provides.
“I thought it was gonna be like a couple years of (coaching), and then I would be done,” he said. “But, I found a lot of gratitude in helping kids, I love being around kids. I like to see the growth in people, I like seeing the growth in kids. It’s fun, I was giving back to the game that I love.”
He was awarded with New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Coach of the Year twice, in 2008 and 2018, and after the program switched into the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) this fall, he was named the conference Coach of the Year again.
But, Eadie doesn’t go far accepting praise without accrediting the people who keep him going.
“It’s a label that’s been given to me, as a coach, but there’s bigger components than I am to these pieces. There’s Dr. P (Craig Poisson), the Athletic Director, who played a big part in my success here. They give me whatever I want to get the job done. Travis Price, played for me for four years, he is now a grad student in his final year. He has played a great part in the recruiting of these kids. So, having the tools around me really helps. Most programs struggle because they don’t have support, I have tremendous support,” he said.
Though Eadie has that support from behind the scenes, the golf program itself has taken a backseat in the athletic community that the College provides.
Being the only NCAA accredited sport offered by Springfield that plays and practices off campus, the popularity of the program doesn’t receive as much following as the school’s most watched sports like basketball, football, and volleyball.
“We’re not basketball, we’re not football, we’re not baseball, we’re not volleyball, all of the big name sports here at Springfield. But we love the back door success. When no one is paying attention to us, that’s good. We like that, we like being the underdog. We drive a mini van with five kids, we don’t have a lot of followers. Great thing. I mean if we do mess up nobody will know,” Eadie said.
Strong added, “It’s kind of nice that we’re away from campus and in our own little world. I made it a point to everyone this year that we are just as important as every other team. We deserve to get the same coverage and the attention even though it’s golf and no one really cares that much about golf compared to sports like basketball. But, if we handle it we can play to our potential and be the best we can be, we should be able to get the same coverage whether they want to give it to us or not.”
The football team prides itself on a “Brotherhood” mentality, and for golf, it is not much different.
“When we start the season we have a period where it’s five weekends in a row where we’re all together and it’s kind of like a comradery thing. We’re all staying in hotel rooms for the weekend and it’s like you have no one else to talk to, so you kind of have to bond. And in that five week stretch it’s just a grind,” Strong said.
“You really have no time to do anything else.”
Competing against their own teammates for spots in the minivan for each tournament, their relationships do not quiver. Instead, they grow stronger and each member of the team gets better along with it.
“We do qualifying week in and week out, which is something that not many coaches will do. So basically during the week we’re competing against ourselves as a team for who goes and plays in these tournaments,” Roya said.
“That’s something that gives all of us a little extra grit when we’re playing. It’s not to beat each other up and then act like we’re still not a team, but it gives us a little extra effort, that we’re still playing for a spot.”
In other sports, there is a “first string” and a “second string” player for almost every position. It is the playing time hierarchy that often discourages players constantly playing behind a star, waiting on them to get tired or injured for their time to shine.
And that could be the same in golf.
Instead, every player has a genuine opportunity to earn his spot.
While it is a fair way to generate a starting lineup, it provides a unique way of bonding for the players and furthers the comradery that they so love.
“That inner team competition is what makes us better. I know like every day at practice I want to beat Jake and Corey. I’m a competitor, that’s just the way I work, and when you get that kind of mindset, when everyone wants to beat each other everyone is going to get better,” Strong said.
Despite playing away from campus, the golf program has developed into one of the most successful hidden treasures of Springfield College athletics.
And after 27 years, that blinker is still going.
Photo courtesy of Springfield College Athletics