Hall Pass

Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Mark Crabtree, who coached the CSU men’s team for a decade before spending 21 years at Louisville, relishes impending induction into Golf Coaches of America Hall of Fame

By Gary Baines – 11/4/2022

Mark Crabtree, whose 31-year run as a college golf head coach began with a successful decade at Colorado State, is set to become the third longtime leader of a Colorado-based program to be inducted into the Golf Coaches of America Hall of Fame.

A resident of Windsor since retiring as a coach two years ago after 21 years at the University of Louisville, Crabtree joins Gene Miranda from the Air Force Academy (1997) and the late Mark Simpson from the University of Colorado (2004) as a GCAA Hall of Famer. John Means, who started his long coaching career with a brief stint at CSU, also is in the Hall of Fame.

Crabtree, along with David Lynn, Bill Montigel and Chris Young, will be inducted on Dec. 5 in Las Vegas. The announcement was made earlier this week. To be chosen for induction, a coach must be nominated by their peers and then selected by the GCAA Hall of Fame Committee. Selection criteria not only include a coach’s record on the golf course, but their contributions to the game, student-athletes and school. All told, more than 150 people have been inducted into the GCAA Hall of Fame.

Mark Crabtree, who spent the last 21 years of his coaching career at Louisville, with one of his former Cardinals standouts, Matti Schmid. (Photo: University of Louisville)

It’s “an honor for which I am very appreciative,” Crabtree wrote in an email Friday regarding his impending induction. “I was fortunate at both Colorado State University and the University of Louisville to be surrounded by outstanding student-athletes, dedicated assistant coaches, visionary administrators and tremendous community supporters. I am both fortunate and proud to have been a part of this profession and our great organization (GCAA) for 31 years.”

Indeed, Crabtree served a two-year term as national president of the GCAA, from 2008-10. Notably, it was Simpson who a decade earlier had encouraged Crabtree to get into the leadership of the GCAA. Simpson coached Crabtree in his final season as a Buff — when future U.S. Open champ Steve Jones was a teammate — after Les Fowler was at the CU helm previously.

Crabtree has been a fixture in the Colorado golf community for much of his life, his years at Louisville notwithstanding. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2006, in part because of a stellar amateur playing record that includes winning four CGA Match Play titles — two in the mid-1970s and two in the 1990s. He also won the 1990 CGA Public Links Championship and advanced to the round of 16 at the 1990 U.S. Amateur.

(Photo of Crabtree: University of Louisville)

The 66-year-old, a graduate of Rocky Mountain High School, earned an Evans Scholarship for caddies to CU, where he was a key member of the golf team in the mid and late 1970s. Nowadays, after his 2020 retirement, Crabtree competes semi-regularly in CGA senior and super-senior championships and resides on the ninth hole at Highland Meadows Golf Course in Windsor. 

After a decade teaching and coaching at Fort Collins High School — the Lambkins won a state championship in boys golf with him as coach in 1986 —  Crabtree was named the men’s golf head coach at CSU. And, over his decade in that job, he built the program at Colorado State from a club sport to qualifying for the NCAA national championships for the first time. The Rams finished 24th in the nation in 1999, which remains the program’s best showing at nationals. They also won the 1997 Stanford Invitational, beating the No. 1 team in the nation in the process — a Georgia Tech squad that included Matt Kuchar and Bryce Molder. Crabtree said he was subsequently told that it was the first time that a CSU squad — in any sport — had beaten the No. 1 team in the nation. All told, CSU claimed nine team championships while with the Rams. In 1998, Crabtree was named a GCAA Regional Coach of the Year.

Crabtree went to Louisville in 1999 and formed a formidable team there. In fact, before the last portion of the 2019-20 season — and the NCAA championships — were canceled due to Covid-19 safety concerns, the Cardinals were ranked among the top 15 men’s Division I teams in the nation. They had chalked up three team titles from October through February. 

“This was a team that was probably one of the best all time that I had, and it was capable of accomplishing some wonderful things in terms of the national championship,” Crabtree told ColoradoGolf.org in 2020. “It was interesting the fact that it got stopped when we really thought we were going to make a great run at the national championship.

“We had five players who were under par for the year on (that season’s) team. We were No. 1 in the country in scoring last year before Covid hit. Those were the reasons that we thought we could compete for a national championship. We had a deep team. … We always would have wondered ‘What if?’ What would it have been like if Covid hadn’t hit and we could have kept marching down the road in March, April, May and jumped in the national championship? We’ll only wonder what would have happened.”

Crabtree, a four-time CGA Match Play champ, has returned to competition the last couple of years.

Following that season — his last as a college coach — Crabtree was named one of five finalists for the GCAA’s national coach of the year honors. Pepperdine’s Michael Beard ended up winning the award. Crabtree was named the Midwest Region Coach of the Year.

All told during Crabtree’s time there, Louisville won 30 team titles and advanced to the NCAA Regionals 11 times and to the NCAA national championship tournament four times, placing as high as 10th in 2008. Crabtree was named Big East Coach of the Year twice.

If that sounds like a Hall of Fame-worthy career, so it is.