Okemos High golf coach finds his place with Chieftains

May 7, 2017

OKEMOS – There are golf courses everywhere. That’s what Chad Kurmel told his wife when she was offered a job advancement opportunity in Michigan. After hearing that, his family took the plunge moving to Michigan in 2015 after spending the last 20 years in Florida. 

Kurmel was director of golf at Boca Grove Golf and Tennis Club, but moving to the Lansing area allowed him to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams. He is now the head coach of Okemos varsity boys golf and a PGA Professional at Michigan State’s Forest Akers golf course.

Kurmel putting at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open.
Credit Bert Laaker

“It’s different,” Kurmel said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Golf’s given me so much, I wanted to give a little bit back. It’s a learning process. You’ve got to learn how the kids learn. Everybody has a different method, so you’ve got to figure out what makes them tick and teach them that way.”

Kurmel started in junior golf, but he admits it working with inexperienced players can be challenging. However, he feels that his experience allows him to connect with younger players and give them the proper training.

“It’s always a challenge,” Kurmel said. “You got guys that are taking lessons, you got guys that aren’t taking lessons, and guys that have never taken lessons. The ones that are taking lessons, you just got to leave them alone and you can teach them some course management and some things around the green. The ones that have not taken lessons, you kind of have a tendency to help them a little bit more cause they need the leadership and guidance.”

Now that Kurmel has half a season under his belt as a coach, he thinks scheduling is the hardest part.

“I’ve got 17 kids, and it’s tough to get around and give them all the attention that they need and that’s the hardest thing,” Kurmel said. “As long as we can get the message out of what it is we’re trying to achieve and I can pop in and give them little tips every day, that helps.”

Kurmel practicing before the 2013 Puerto Rico Open.
Credit Bert Laaker

Kurmel, 45, comes with a strong playing resume. He played golf at Southeastern Louisiana University, winning the 1992 Trans America Athletic Conference Championship. He also played in two PGA Tour events, competing in the 2007 Honda Classic and the 2013 Puerto Rico Open. Kurmel missed the cut in both, but said the experience was good.  

“It’s a whole ‘nother level of competition, cause those guys are doing it for a living and you’re still working,” Kurmel said. “It’s a good experience to get out there and play and be treated like a professional, where you get all the goodies and the perks for a week. Playing at that level makes you appreciate everything else down the line.”

He still competes in tournaments when he can find the time. Kurmel will compete in the Michigan Open in June, and the National Club Championship in Oregon the week after that.

He values the opportunity to play on the PGA Tour, and he tries to transfer the knowledge to make his players smarter on the course.

“He talks to us as we play, he played with us and he’ll just talk to you to make sure you’re managing the course as well as you can and making smart decisions,” junior Zach Fraser said. 

The team is young, but it has won the Madison Ryder Cup and a triangular with Mason and Lansing Catholic. Fraser tied for first with the lowest individual score at the triangular. The team also finished third at the CAAC Blue Jamboree at Okemos and fourth in the Judson Scramble.

Golf consumes a large part of Kurmel's life. He likes to spend his free time with his family and cook. His daughter is a freshman at Okemos, and he enjoys watching her play volleyball. When he’s cooking, he’s making his best dish - which he says is a “killer rack of lamb.”

Kurmel poses after winning the 2012 PGA South Florida Championship.
Credit South Florida Section of the PGA of America

“In Florida, I took cooking classes. I know there’s a place up here I’ve taken one cooking class that’s in Eaton Rapids and it was pretty nice. I watch the Food Channel and Food Network and just like to mess around in the kitchen,” Kurmel said.

Kurmel doesn’t know how long his preps coaching career will last, but he’d like to move into college coaching at some point. Right now, he doesn’t mind where he’s at.

“With Michigan State close there’s always a hope that something might open up there or there’s a couple D-3 schools that are within an hour to 45 minutes,” Kurmel said. “There’s some opportunities it’s just a matter of if something opens up, but right now I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”