Coach James Yen Shifts from Football to Golf

Coach James Yen standing in front of the LC golf team logo. Photo by Ben Weinstein.

For many, this year’s Super Bowl, the lowest-scoring in history,  seemed to advance at a pace more befitting a round of golf than a game of football. No touchdown passes were thrown, and it was not until the final quarter that the game’s first and only touchdown was scored at all. In other words, the electrifying large plays that football fans crave were replaced by a steadier ebb and flow of gameplay more closely resembling golf than the gridiron.

This example is microcosmic of a clearly perceptible gulf between the two sports. On one side, the intense physicality and teamwork of football; on the other, the quiet focus and solitude of golf. Yet for James Yen, head coach of the men’s and women’s golf teams and former assistant coach of football, this division is home.

Yen came to Lewis & Clark as the wide receiver coach in 2015, following four seasons of football at nearby Pacific University. It was not until fall 2017 that he was chosen as head coach of both golf teams, filling the vacancy left by Dave Andrews’ retirement. However, this was not his first time coaching off the football field. At Linfield College, his alma mater, Yen led the women’s golf team for one season, in addition to eight with the football team. As he explained, the opportunity to coach both sports is a unique one.

“I was actually thinking, the other day, about how many football players or coaches make that transition to golf coach — and not just from football coach to men’s golf coach, but football coach to women’s golf coach,” Yen said.  “Not that many.”

Despite this, Yen embraced the opportunity at Linfield with open arms.

“I was glad that I did that and took a leap … and challenged myself in that way,” Yen said.“I learned from it and used that to get to where I’m at right now, coaching both the men’s and women’s golf teams here at Lewis & Clark.”

The end of the football season last November marked Yen’s complete transition to the LC golf program, where he will continue as head coach. He knows, however, that his longtime experience coaching football will continue to be an important asset on the golf course.

“I mean, it’s the same age group that I’m dealing with, with football players and golfers,” Yen said. “It’s all about how you communicate with them, and how you reach out to them. And it’s the same in all sports. I think that’s the biggest transition for me from football to golf; how to reach out to them and make that short, limited time we have at practice, or at a tournament, maximized.”

Though he started coaching the golf teams under two years ago, Yen has wasted no time in kick-starting new strategies for success. Jacob Bell ’19 elaborated on the changes he has noticed.

“He implemented team lifts, revamped our indoor hitting room and has done so much else to move our program forward,” Bell said via email.

Tori Eichten ’19 described Yen’s interest in how the teams’ presentation can exalt their perception in the eyes of the broader golf community.

“In the fall he bought the whole program a bunch of new gear including new polos, rain suits, workout gear, etc.,” Eichten said. “He wants our program to be one that is respected by other teams in the conference as well as one that the Lewis & Clark Athletics Department can be proud of.”

Another important way that Yen has impacted the team is in its recruiting process, which team member Grant Shimizu ’22 has experienced firsthand.

“The recruiting aspect of football is highly competitive, and I think that Coach (Yen) has already demonstrated his ability to sell incoming golfers on our school,” Shimizu said. “I was excited to join this program after talking to (Yen), and he made sure that I was embraced by the rest of the team right from the beginning.”

Behind the team’s new training measures, fresh gear and recruiting strength, though, is Yen’s personality, which Bell described as “upbeat, up-tempo and positive.”

“Football is much more of a rowdy sport and that’s exactly how James (Yen) carries himself on the course,” Eichten said. “If I make a good shot and hear hollering and thunderous applause I have no doubt that it is (Yen).”

For Yen, giving such enthusiastic support is a no-brainer.

“It’s trying to get them to be the best player and person that they can be, and vice versa; trying to give that away,” Yen said. “That’s my job.”

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