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The Cal Poly men’s and women’s golf teams don’t receive the notoriety of other sports on campus, let alone the same type of funding. But the programs are one step closer to being on par with other sports after recently receiving a $1.1 million gift from local golf enthusiasts Michael and Sammy Pineau.
The golf programs currently have a fundraising campaign in place to raise a $5-7 million endowment, in perpetuity, over the next five years. To reach that goal, gifts from donors such as the Pineaus are needed in the meantime to support current student-athletes while campaign efforts raise the money over the long term.
“Michael and Sammy’s gift is going to provide current cash today so that we can go ahead and raise the money for the endowment so that when (their) gift runs out of current cash, we’ll have the endowment at the point where it’s kicking in at least that much, if not more, so that it can continue in perpetuity,” Associate Athletic Director for Development Ashley Offermann said.
In other words, their gift is making sure that for the next few years, Cal Poly golfers get the benefit of a fully funded program even though that goal will take several years to accomplish. Specifically, along with others’ gifts, it will help fund more scholarships and boost the programs’ operating budget.
To date, community members, golf team alumni and parents of former athletes have committed almost $3 million to the endowment effort.
“While Michael and Sammy’s gift is the gift that we’re celebrating right now, there’s probably a core of 12 people that have really helped launch the endowment,” Offermann said. “It’s not a traditional way you see monies raised for athletic programs.”
The golf program has seemingly always endured budgetary adversity. It was discontinued in 1975 when Loren Roberts, a professional golfer and Cal Poly’s most notable player, was a sophomore. It wasn’t reinstated until 2000, right around the time current men’s golf head coach Scott Cartwright became involved.
The endowment is aimed at helping the teams overcome budgetary obstacles the programs have been faced with.
“When we travel, we pack into one vehicle and it’s three to a room and it’s no frills and things like that,” Cartwright said. “So it’s certainly going to bolster that to make travel a little easier. (Regarding) our operating budget, maybe we can play another tournament or two, maybe we can get a second pair of shoes. Things like that.”
Cal Poly currently funds 3.5 of the 10.5 scholarships allowed by the NCAA and operates at approximately half of the average Big West Conference golf program. Of those 3.5 scholarships, 2.5 are allocated for the women’s team and the remaining scholarship is given to the men’s squad. Of those, scholarship money is divided between multiple players on each team — no single player holds a full scholarship.
“To get the top players, you need some money, certainly,” Cartwright said. “It is difficult to get the top-echelon players up and down the lineup. We can get one or two, but it’s not like Stanford where they can get six or seven.”
The Pineaus’ gift came in two parts: the first was a $100,000 donation approximately a year ago to fund another four-year scholarship. The second part, which was given recently, was $1 million to further support the endowment efforts.
According to Offermann, Cartwright and Director of Athletics Don Oberhelman will work together to decide where the funds should be allocated on a yearly basis. Over the next four years, it will fund two more full-ride scholarships worth approximately $25,000 per year (around $100,000 total). In the next two years, the programs are expected to double the amount of scholarships in general.
Approximately $50,000-60,000 per year will go to operating expenses for both programs, and the rest will go toward “contingency funds,” according to Offermann. If there is money left over each year, it will roll over into the actual endowment.
“If there is need for it in the current years, (the Pineaus’) would rather see the money be spent to make the current program as good as possible, but if you have $10,000 left, don’t just go spend it frivolously at the end of the year,” Offermann said.
The goal of the programs is to be fully funded in four to five years, Offermann said.
Today, the teams participate in the minimum number of tournaments possible to save money. As another cost measure, Cartwright is the coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at Cal Poly — most other programs have individual coaches for both squads.
Offermann noted with the help of the Pineaus’ donation, the goal is to have another coach in place to take over one of the teams for Cartwright by the fall season.
“Scott is the only coach for two programs and is hobbled by lack of scholarship and budgetary support,” Michael Pineau said in a press release. “We understand that, to be competitive and successful, Scott needed our support. We are very happy to be in a position to help today’s student-athletes while efforts are underway to endow the program.”
Despite the hindrances, the men’s golf team has seen its share of success recently. Sophomore Justin De Los Santos became just the second player to win the Big West golf title with a one-stroke victory at the 2015 Big West Conference Men’s Golf Championship this year.
“I feel like the program is going in the right direction and this will definitely boost us,” said De Los Santos, the team’s top individual in terms of scoring average this season. “We’ll be able to recruit better players. It’s a beautiful school; we just need the money to actually get the people here.”
In addition to short-term needs, discussion has taken place for larger projects. There have been talks about building a golf facility on campus, perhaps complete with a driving range and other amenities that cater to Cal Poly golfers. However, those talks are in their infancy, and there are no such plans reflected in Cal Poly’s Master Plan released several weeks ago.
The Pineaus’ are friends of Cartwright. They met him when he was the club professional at San Luis Obispo Country Club and have remained close since he left the club to take over the reigns of the men’s and women’s teams at Cal Poly. Michael even caddied for Cartwright on several occasions in U.S. Open qualifier tournaments, according to the coach.
Neither Michael nor Sammy are Cal Poly alumni or affiliated with the university in a significant way other than through their connection to Cartwright. The Pineaus moved to San Luis Obispo in the 1970s. Michael graduated from the University of North Dakota, while Sammy graduated from the University of Georgia.
Michael was a real estate developer and Sammy was a realtor in her professional career.