When Jeff Griebel sends his St. Ambrose Fighting Bees into the first round of the 59th annual NAIA Men's Golf Championship on Tuesday at TPC Deere Run, he will do so with new-found authority.
The Bees will be chasing a national title in their own backyard under the direction of the newest member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.
"It is very humbling and it is a great honor," said Griebel, 55, and in his 28th season as SAU's golf coach. "I never anticipated it would ever happen to me."
Griebel becomes the first St. Ambrose inductee into the NAIA Hall at Monday's 7 p.m. national championship opening banquet at the Rogalski Center on SAU's campus.
He was chosen for the honor by his NAIA coaching counterparts and considers his selection a nod to his longtime involvement in NAIA events and programs, as well as an acknowledgement of SAU's role as the national tourney's second-year host.
It also is a tribute to the enduring success of Fighting Bees golf. This year's team is the 21st Griebel has led to the national tourney, where his 2004 crew finished third and 2006 team claimed fourth.
Griebel's teams have won 193 tournaments and 15 Midwest Collegiate Conference championships. He has coached 10 NAIA first-team all-Americans and a pair of second-teamers.
What is most gratifying to Griebel is that many of those players are successful adults who contribute to the program. Many work in golf and direct new talent Griebel's way.
"If you have success, that's great," Griebel said. "If you win a lot of tournaments, that's great. Those things are nice, but what is more important to me is to see them do well academically, graduate and move on. And then give back to the program.
"I have got like 20 former players coming Monday night for the program, and that tells me that I have done a good job," he said.
Griebel's grads are proud of the program's continuing success.
"He has year after year put together a nationally competitive team," noted Chris Wilkins, the MCC golfer of the year in 1993. "For a school from Davenport, Iowa, that doesn't have the advantage of year-round golf to be able to do that speaks to his ability to recruit and year-after-year retain quality athletes."
Like Wilkins and many of Griebel's standout contributors, senior Dusty Drenth is a former Quad-Cities prep. He said Griebel's encouraging approach and ability to understand each player's swing and golf psyche are Bees keys.
"He can recruit with the best of them," said Drenth, a two-time all-American. "And he just knows golf."
Griebel will be presented his Hall of Fame plaque by Mike Rettke, a member of the 1991 SAU team who subsequently became a friend and someone the coach helped deal with the death of a young wife.
"Those are the kinds of relationships that make me feel like I have done a good job," Griebel said.