Sept. 19, 2012
Michigan State will induct six new members into its Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 20. In the fourth of a six-part series this week on msuspartans.com, online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles former women's golfer Emily Bastel.
Emily Bastel was eight or nine years old when she launched her bid to become the first student-athlete from the 21st Century to enter the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame.
She didn't know it at the time, but it was during one of the rounds of golf she would attempt to play with her mother, Debbie, in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, at Lincoln Hills Golf Club, the nine-hole course her family has owned since the 1930s.
"My mom tells a great story about how we used to go play and we'd get to about No. 4 before I'd have a little temper tantrum and she'd have to drag me in," Bastel said. "So I was apparently pretty competitive even at a very young age."
Those flames turned into a bonfire after Bastel arrived at MSU as an unheralded prospect.
Four years later, Spartan women's golf was back on the national map and she was a four-time All-Big Ten selection, the 2001-02 conference player-of-the-year and an All-American.
And now her image hangs among the other MSU immortals in the school's Hall of Fame.
"That's pretty crazy," she said. "The one thing that stuck out in my mind about that is I felt I was pretty young for something like this. But, I was obviously pretty flattered."
Bastel has had the good fortune of being able to cultivate her abilities in fertile environments. Her father, David, is the PGA Professional at Lincoln Hills and teacher to her and brother Ben, a former Miami of Ohio Academic All-American.
"My mentor in golf growing up most certainly has been my father," Bastel said. "Our course was built in 1927 and it's where I grew up. My dad is the superintendent and my mom works in the shop. My brother and I worked there. I used to mow greens when I was in high school and work in the shop, and we both sort of did it all.
"It's the epitome of a family business."
It's also where Bastel learned the game and developed the confidence to flourish in Coach Stacy Slobodnik-Stoll's Spartan program.
"I was so ready to go to college when I graduated from high school," Bastel said. "I grew up in a town of 6,000 people and sometimes it was so small and stifling. But now, being able to look back, I just realize the support I've gotten from the people in my hometown and being able to grow up there was such a blessing because definitely it shaped who I am at this time of my life and it shaped my career.
"And being able to have the overwhelming support of loving parents and family was really awesome. I played my first tournament when I was about 11 years old, which by today's standards is probably a late start, but it worked for me."
In so many ways that Slobodnik-Stoll calls Bastel the greatest Spartan golfer of all time.
It all started with being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1999, and she won Big Ten medalist honors the following year. As a junior, Bastel set a school record with a 75.23 stroke average while leading Michigan State to a Big Ten title. And, with a 13th-place finish in the NCAA Championships, she paced the Spartans to a school-best 12th-place finish in the national tourney.
As a senior in 2001-02, Bastel won the University of South Florida Waterlefe Invitational with a school-record 54-hole score of 214 and the Indiana Invitational. She also lowered her own MSU record with a 74.61 average and had top-five finishes in seven events.
"There's no doubt we had a very close team when I was there and I'm still very good friends with a lot of the girls," Bastel said. "From a personal standpoint, my individual win at the Big Ten championships my sophomore year was a pretty incredible experience.
"I'm a superstitious person and one of the things I used to do is if I started a round wearing a certain outfit, I wouldn't remove any clothing. The Big Tens were at Wisconsin that year and I was wearing this black (base-layer) shirt because it was really cold in the morning. But by the end of the day, it was 75-80 degrees, but it was so hot, I would not take that thing off because I was playing well."
Although golf is considered an individual sport, Bastel said nothing compared to MSU winning the league title.
"That was pretty special," she said. "Individual accomplishments are obviously great, but there's no doubt the memories I have from winning team championships are the most rewarding."
While Bastel thrived in the atmosphere created by Slobodnik-Stoll, the Spartans appeared in four NCAA Regionals and three NCAA Championships.
"Stacy is an amazing recruiter," Bastel said. "I wasn't the most highly touted recruit coming out of high school, but she definitely saw something in me. The thing I loved about her and what she was presenting at Michigan State was that she was 100-percent supportive, so she was very similar to my parents in that way.
"She said to me, `If you want to do this and set your mind to it, I will help you and I believe you can do it.' And that's what I was looking for - someone who believed in me."
Bastel also has an amazing gene pool to thank for her athletic prowess. She said nine members of her family have played Division I sports of one kind or another. Her cousin, Caroline Powers, is an All-American on the MSU golf team and the daughter of Buddy Powers, a former Boston University hockey player and current Terrier assistant coach.
After spending the 2002-03 season as a Spartan assistant coach, Bastel went on to play on the LPGA and Futures tours, and accumulated $176,289 in career earnings. In 2011, she returned to coaching as an assistant at Duke and then Florida. She is currently in her first season as the Gators' women's head golf coach, and won her first-ever tournament as a head coach earlier this month at the Cougar Classic in Charleston, S.C.
"Stacy and I remain close and I still talk to her every couple of weeks," Bastel said. "I learned a lot from her from a coaching standpoint. She does a great job of not only mentoring her players, but has formed friendships and relationships that really last, I'm sure in my case a lifetime.
"It's funny because we would never make excuses for ourselves given the weather up North, and now I'm on the other end telling recruits how great the weather is in Florida. But in general, a lot of the core values I had as a player at Michigan State are instilled in my program now. Our program probably resembles Stacy's in certain aspects."