By Bobby Curran
In the case of Rainbow Wahine head golf coach Stephen Bidne, it is probably not a big surprise that he ended up in Hawaii. Growing up in Minnesota, he knew early on that when it was time for college, he was going somewhere new. “I decided on the University of Northern Colorado. It was quite different from what I was used to,” Bidne said. “And I thought I could contribute right away on the golf team.”
Not only did he contribute, but Bidne was named captain as a freshman, an honor he would receive all four years. He had an exceptional college career: Co-Newcomer of the Year in the American Sky in his first year, as well as being his team’s best player. He was three times All-America Sky conference, and the Player of the Year in 2010. He was also a four-year Dean’s List selection.
After graduation, Bidne embarked on a professional career. He played on several mini tours, including PGA Canada, and in the process won four titles and finished Top-5 in 13 other tournaments throughout the Dakota Tour, Gateway Tour and state opens.
“I was playing pretty well, and loved the competition,” said Bidne, “but at that level it’s a serious grind.” And one day after his 2sedond pro season came the phone call that changed everything. “My college coach told me that the women’s job came open at the University of Northern Colorado, and he thought I might want to throw my hat in the ring,” Bidne said. “I was preparing for my next season on the mini tours, but I’d always been a bit of a golf nerd; I love talking golf and enjoyed teaching the finer points with younger teammates.” He applied, interviewed, and at the age of 24 became the head coach of the women’s program at his alma mater.
What sealed the deal was the woman he’d dated since his junior year at UNC had returned from a teaching job in Thailand and had gotten hired to teach at a school near UNC. That woman, Addison, is now his wife. “Seems like it was fate. Everything kind of fell into place,” Bidne said. “I loved coaching, and we had some early success.”
In his last two years at Northern Colorado, the team got into the top 100 in the national rankings, a perch that represented an unprecedented level of success for the program.
When the UH job came open, Bidne immediately applied. “I had the chance to play in college in Hawaii, and thought it was incredible in terms of the golf and the beauty of the place and the people,” Bidne said. “Addison is a very outdoorsy kind of person, and I knew she’d love it, too.”
UH AD David Matlin was reviewing applications, and a couple of things caught his eye. “Here was a guy only six years out of college, and he’d already been a head coach for four years. Then you look at his college career and see he’d been team captain all four years,” said Matlin. “That tells you something about him.” Enough to earn Bidne a Skype interview, a couple of follow-up phone calls, and finally an in-person interview near the Denver Airport. “After 15 minutes, I knew I’d found the guy,” said Matlin. “We spent a couple hours getting to know each other, but I already was sure.” Two days later, the offer was made and accepted.
It didn’t take long for Bidne to put his stamp on the program. In his first year, UH won a team title, two runner ups, and a national ranking of 87, the highest since 2007-08. That included the lowest scoring average in program history of 75.4. Last year, the team was headed for more great results, having completed a terrific performance at the Dr. Donnis Thompson Invitational where they bested eight higher ranked teams before the season was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Good things are within grasp. “Fortunately, we’ve gotten some scholarship money freed up,” said Bidne. “Between that and WUE money (a Western states tuition reduction program) and a new International Scholarship program, we are going after some players that might only have previously considered Power 5 schools. This year’s class will be our strongest ever.”
The growth is not only with the team, but at home also. Nine months ago, Stephen and Addison welcomed daughter Emerson to the family, and perhaps now will add another adventuress into the mix. Addison loves the ocean, swimming and surfing as well as hiking. This is a family who has found a wonderful fit in Hawaii, and David Matlin couldn’t be happier. “From the jump I loved his energy and dedication,” said Matlin. “The way he relates to his players, his work ethic, and his healthy confidence all point to a bright future for the program.”
Bidne picked up an assistant coach as well. US Open champion Scott Simpson contacted Bidne about a player looking to transfer, and Bidne quickly developed a rapport that led to an invitation to Simpson to join the staff, and he quickly agreed. “I’ve always said my trademarks are enthusiasm and positivity,” said Bidne about the Kailua resident. “Scott might have me on both counts.”
With all these recent developments, this Wahine team may soon be very hard to beat!