As dominant as Cody Burgdorff has been in the goal for the Augustana College men’s lacrosse team the past three seasons, the Vikings’ junior has taken his competitive energy to even greater heights away from field.
Burgdorff is a world-class fly fisherman, a member of silver-medal winning Team USA at the 2012 World Youth Fly Fishing Competition in France who this summer will begin competition on the new Pro Fly Angling Tour.
He’ll be casting for cash and prizes among the nation’s best fly fishermen in addition to preparing for his senior season on an Augustana team which has ranked in the top 10 in the nation in defense in the past two seasons.
The first sanctioned competition will be in June for the tour which has secured a national television contract, shortly after the Vikings return home from a team trip to Ireland where Augustana will face international competition.
“It’s going to be a busy summer, but it’s going to be a great experience,’’ Burgdorff said. “I’ve grown up around both sports and I love the competition. It’s a part of who I am.’’
Because he will be competing as a professional in something other than lacrosse, Burgdorff can retain his NCAA eligibility in the sport.
The economics and accounting major from Lafayette, Colo., has had a fishing rod in his hands since the age of 4 when he began taking regular trips to Colorado streams with his grandfather, Joe Carbone.
“I can’t even begin to think how many hours we’ve spent fishing. It developed my love of the sport and now he and my grandmother drive 14 hours each way to come to most of my games here at Augie,’’ Burgdorff said. “It’s been special.’’
Vikings coach Kyle Hart considers it special to have Burgdorff helping build the Vikings program.
Selected as an all-Midwest Lacrosse Conference goalkeeper last season as a sophomore, Burgdorff has helped Augustana compile a 29-17 record during his career, ranking among the NCAA Division III leaders in goals against average and save percentage.
“For the last couple of seasons, Cody has been the backbone of our efforts,’’ said Hart, whose 9-6 team begins postseason tournament play Wednesday at Aurora. “He’s a fantastic lacrosse player and a great leader who has accomplished unique things both athletically and academically.’’
Hart said he was aware of Burgdorff’s passion for fly fishing as he recruited him in high school.
“What I didn’t know at the time was how accomplished he is,’’ Hart said. “To be able to represent our country in world competition, that speaks to his abilities in that endeavor.’’
Burgdorff, who has played lacrosse since joining a youth club program in the fourth grade, competed in soccer, hockey and basketball as well in high school but he has always found time for fishing.
A family friend runs a shop in Boulder, Colo., geared toward fly fishing and through him, Burgdorff gained an interest in competitive fishing.
“I was probably in seventh or eighth grade when I entered my first competition and it was something I enjoyed, a challenge that I liked and appreciated,’’ Burgdorff said. “I like the idea of competing. It has provided me with a chance to promote conservation and to show people that fly fishing is a sport for people of all ages. It’s not just something for grandparents. Young people can enjoy it, too.’’
In 2009, Burgdorff finished seventh in the U.S. Men’s Nationals as a 16-year old and in the process, he earned a spot on the United States Youth Fly Fishing Team that he held from 2009-12.
He went on to finish second at the U.S. Youth Nationals in 2011 one year before representing the United States in the World Youth Fly Fishing Competition in France, where in addition to being part of a silver-medal winning team he finished sixth in individual competition.
When he chose to attend Augustana, where he has earned academic all-conference recognition from the Midwest Lacrosse Conference, Burgdorff was initially uncertain how that would impact his abilities to fly fish.
While the Mississippi River and other area waters are known for their fishing, Burgdorff was surprised to find ample fly fishing streams in northeast Iowa and welcomed the opportunity to join an active Quad-City Fly Fishing Club.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised. It’s only a little more than an hour away from campus to some spots not far from Dubuque,’’ Burgdorff said. “When I have a chance, I like to get away and find some quiet time to fish. It’s a good way to take a break from classes, clear the head a bit, relax and just enjoy the surroundings.’’
A few of his lacrosse teammates have joined Burgdorff on occasion and as an instructor for the Boulder Fly Casters Trout Unlimited Conservation and Fly Fishing Camp, he has enjoyed sharing his expertise.
Burgdorff does sees similarities between fly fishing and the skills he has used to set Augustana career records in wins, saves, save percentage and goals against average.
“In both, you have to have good hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes,’’ he said. “The reflexes you need to stop a ball coming at you at 80-to-90 miles per hour are similar to those that you use in fly fishing in reacting to movements that you use as you cast.’’
Hart believes the concentration and focus needed in fly fishing also translate to the skill Burgdorff uses in goal for the Vikings.
“Those traits, along with good hand-eye coordinator, benefit Cody in the way he is able to get his body behind the ball,’’ Hart said. “He reacts quickly, and that starts with good footwork and I believe that probably has helped him as well.’’
Burgdorff will continue to use those skills as the Vikings’ season continues and once he begins participation in the Pro Fly Angling Tour.
“There is a thrill of competition that I like about both,’’ he said. “The arenas are different – from the teamwork that goes into lacrosse to the challenge you find in a stream – but I find a lot to like in both and both are definitely a part of who I am.’’