BOZEMAN -- Montana State head golf coach Brittany Basye is in her second stint at the helm for the Bobcats' program. Starting her golf career at Billings Central, Basye helped lead their basketball and volleyball teams to a few state titles alongside players like Shannon (Cate) Schweyen. She then found her calling in golf that led her to new heights.
Basye attended the University of New Mexico and competed on the golf team, winning a Western Athletic Conference championship, as well as being named their conference's player of the year. She then played at the highest levels of professional golf.
Basye sat down with MTN Sports to relive her golfing journey from Billings that led her to a semifinal finish at the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship in 1993, an appearance at the U.S. Women's Open in 1995 and to her current seat at the head of the Montana State golf program.
MTN Sports: The new Bobcat season is around the corner, how are you preparing so far for the upcoming year?
Brittany Basye: "Well, I'm hoping that the girls have been preparing all summer. So just from our from our standpoint here from the office, just getting the travel schedule ready, getting practice schedules ready, workout schedules ready and making sure that that fits in with their class schedules because kind of something we juggle. Otherwise, prep for right now what we are going to do at practices. This year is unique because we have four seniors. A big thing for us this year is going to be empowering our kids. I feel like by the time you are a senior, you've gone through the program, you know what my expectations are, I kind of know what they're doing and I kind of want them to empower themselves and kind of be great leaders of the girls that are coming up. So by the the time the girls are coming up and be in their positions, they can do the same thing. So we are trying to start this new thing, empowerment. We are going to give you some power to do what you want to do at practice, unless there is something specific you want to work on. So Travis and I have been really working on that this summer and figuring out a good way to do that."
MTN Sports: The first tournament coming up is the Battle of Old Works in mid-September. You were instrumental in organizing the one Division I golf tournament that exists in the state of Montana. How did that all come about?
Basye: "You know, I think between us and the University of Montana, we wanted to seek out a place to play in Montana. Old Works is unique, you have the black sand, it's a Jack Nicklaus (designed course), Anaconda is a fun spot just to go visit and of course the golf course is amazing. So we thought, 'Okay, let's try and get a tournament in here.' Of course the weather restricts us quite a bit so we had to make it early September. So we had to find a week where there wasn't other tournaments that were conflicting so we could get teams to come play in our tournament. That was kind of a puzzle. We've adjusted the weeks these days, this year further back (September 16-18), instead of earlier in September to free up some other teams that could come play. I think it's a great event, Old Works is always a fun a fun place to play. We have a lot of teams coming from California and they're like, 'Oh we get to come to Montana.' When I tell them about the black sand in the bunkers, they don't believe it. So I feel like it's a unique golf course, it's a great golf course, it's close, we still consider it a home event, the Grizzlies help co-host with us. And so between the both of us, we can say we hosted a tournament event in September, the weather is great and we get a good turnout."
MTN Sports: Speaking of tournaments, the biggest thing that happened in golf this off-season was the repeal of the high school spectator rule. Now fans, parents and coaches can now go and watch tournaments, especially for you recruiting-wise, how big is it that you now get to recruit right in your home state?
Basye: "Huge. Just being a parent, it's like how wonderful now that those parents can go out and watch their kids. And I feel like from a kid's standpoint, they get the support of people out there watching them. I think as far as the coaching standpoint, we should be able to get some more coaches in here, not just Montana coaches, that can come watch these tournaments assuming it fits into their schedules. But opening that up was awesome and I think it will help us, our programs, Montana, Rocky, all the other colleges in the state of Montana where they can actually go out and watch these girls, and they guys, and they know that they have a chance of getting recruited."
MTN Sports: In your high school days, you told me you didn't even play golf, you started late (at Billings Central). How was your journey of eventually playing golf at the University of New Mexico.
Bayse: "Back in the days when I went to high school, we didn't have a softball team. Golf was in the spring. Spring sports were track and field, which I was not going to play, and we didn't have softball or I would have played softball. So I lived on a golf course luckily and just kind of played with my parents and some junior tournaments just for fun, but I remember the coach came to me in the spring and said, 'Basketball and volleyball are over, what do you want to do now?' and I said let's go golf. So I ended up going out for the golf team, played for fun. It was was different because you are on your own it's not a team sport so to say. And I went out and had a great time."
MTN Sports: Golf was a change of your usual sports of basketball and volleyball.
Basye: "Basketball was my first love, I love basketball. I loved volleyball. I had so much fun with my teams, my teammates who I'm still best buddies with today. But (golf) was something that I needed to do because I had bad knees so I couldn't play basketball, couldn't play volleyball. Golf seemed like it would be a relief on my body, which isn't always the case now because of my shoulders. But, it was a hard sport too so I had to work on it a lot harder and mentally I had to challenge myself. So it was something unique for me to try and challenge myself that didn't come easy. I had to actually work hard at it."
MTN Sports: Was it hard to switch with all the state titles you were winning with Shannon Schweyen and your group?
Basye: "You know it was. But (golf) was something fun that I could do on my own time. So in the summer we still played softball, but I could go to the golf course and practice on my golf game. And then when I actually went to the University of New Mexico, it was all golf. No basketball, no volleyball, I wasn't allowed to play basketball or volleyball so coach really narrowed in on golf and that's when I really got better when I started to play golf. then I kind of went to shoot baskets here or there, but it was all golf. I was focused 100 percent on golf."
MTN Sports: And it paid off because you won a Player of the Year award in the Western Athletic Conference, you medaled at one of (the conference) tournaments. How would you sum up your college career?
Basye: "Well I have to remember, it was a long time ago, Nick. It's funny because I was just digging through some old photos, some old newspaper clippings and showing them to my kids of course, which was real funny seeing Mom dressed up like this back in the days. But, it's surreal. I can say I can remember those days specifically, I won the WAC Championship and my teammate was right behind me pushing me and she was catching me. So I had to make the last final putt on the last final hole to win the championship. Winning as a team was more special to me than winning as an individual. And I'll never forget the time our team made it through regionals to qualify for nationals. And that was what it was all about for me, it wasn't really anything about me, it was about that team because we actually got to go to nationals. Who can say that every team gets to go to nationals and we got to go to Georgia and play in the nationals tournament and compete for a national championship."
MTN Sports: What was the transition from New Mexico to then joining the professional circuit?
Basye: "I think basically in my mind I either wanted to be a mother or play professional golf. And I think trying to play professional golf was the first thing to tackle. So I took off in my car and I drove to Scottsdale, Arizona and I joined a mini tour called the Players West. It's no longer out there, but I played in the Players West tournaments and they were called the Futures tournaments. So up and down the California coast over to Florida back and forth and just played that for about a year and a half just trying to get my tour card. Back then it was way different, we only had two stages of qualifying. So we had to get to Stage 1 to get to Stage 2 and the first round I didn't make it. Got to Stage 1, never got to Stage 2. So I was thinking about what I was going to do, do I quit? Do I keep going? And I decided to work for Ping Manufacturing down in Arizona. I went to work for a golf course and decided to take a break from golf and went to work at Ping ad got to know golf in a different light so I got to see how they make golf clubs, how they fit people for golf clubs, got to go teach people how they fit for golf clubs. So I got the corporate area of the golf world and not so to play, but teaching how to fit people and how to play better. So that was fun. And then decided to go out and play again because I was missing that competition. And so I loaded myself up again, went out and tried to make the LPGA again and got to Stage 2 and didn't make it through the finals, but ended up having my first child nine months later. So no regrets there at all.
MTN Sports: In 1993 you played in the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship and you were a semifinalist. Was that the big catapult (to the pros)?
Basye: "Yup, it was totally the catapult. I was just talking to Delaney (Elliott) who played in the U.S. Women's Amateur this year and we were talking about the experience of going to the U.S. Women's Amateur, where it's a totally different level. And coming out of New Mexico, I wasn't anything special. I played, I did alright, but I wasn't where I wanted to be. So when I qualified to go to the U.S. Amateur, I barely made it into the match play and then when I got to the match play it was like a light went on. Man, I was just on cruise control and I just kept beating the people I was playing against and then ended up in the semifinals and got beat in the semifinals. But I remember one of the college coaches looking up at the scoreboard and saying, 'Who is that Brittany Schaff? She's from Montana,' because on (the scoreboard) it said Billings, Montana. Well who from Billings, Montana, other than Leslie Spalding, would make it to the semifinals of the U.S. Amateurs. But it gave me more confidence because then I was like, 'I can go back and play college golf,' because if I can get to this level, I can compete and play with the best players in the country because that's what I was doing there. So that really catapulted me. So when I was a senior, I was playing really well in every tournament we played in, (I) had a chance to win to win a lot of those tournaments, (I) had a chance to go to probably go to nationals again as an individual, failed at that. But it really turned my game to where I made the decision to where I could actually do this and I'm just as good as some of these people out here, I just have to keep dedicating myself to that."
MTN Sports: And then you played in probably one of the most famous tournaments in golf, which is the U.S. Women's Open. Describe that experience.
Basye: "You had to do a qualifier, so I went to Briarwood and played in a one-day qualifier and went into a playoff to get into that U.S. Open. So (I) won in the playoff, which got me into the U.S. Open. So I got to play in the U.S., again you have to qualify, it's just like a normal tournament, you have to get through the first two days to get to the last two days. I didn't make it to the last two days, but I was on the ticker the first day. I remember I played really well the first day and I just didn't finish up on the second day. But again, I feel like that helped me with my game and it took me to a spot where I knew I could potentially play with these ladies in the future. That was a surreal moment. My dad got to caddie for me, my family came and watched, my mom, my grandma and grandpa, my aunts and uncles. It was pretty cool. And Leslie Spalding was playing in it as well, we had both qualified. And coming from Montana, who would believe that Montana kids could actually get a chance to even play on the (LPGA) tour and then the U.S. Open."
MTN Sports: The pro career finishes, then you get into coaching. This is actually your second stint with the Bobcats. What drove you to come back?
Basye: "Three kids, I have three kids. So when I started coaching I had one child, my first child, Haley. And then through the next seven years of my stint of coaching I had two more kids, Kameron and Jackson. So I travel a lot. It was hard just being away from my kids and maybe feeling like I wasn't being the mom that I should be. You got your team and you got your family, it's a balance. Every coach will tell you it's a hard balance. So I didn't feel like I was balacing the motherhood part that well. So I called up Leslie (Spalding) and said, 'Hey Les, do you want to come over and take over my team?' because I just didn't want to leave my team with anybody, I wanted to find somebody that I could trust and who would do a good job., And Leslie was in a position where she wanted to do something different and she said yes I'll come on over. So Leslie ended up coaching for three or four years and she called up and said, 'Hey Brittany, I got the job at San Diego State, you want your job back?' and by the time she called me back I was in Bozeman already and saw what the team was doing and my kids were a little bit older. And I thought, yeah I want to go back into that and I got the approval from my family and my kids and here we are."
MTN Sports: What's the future hold for Brittany Basye?
Basye: "You know right now I love what I'm doing. I love to be a part of these kids lives, helping them grow, giving them the best opportunity to have the best four years of college here at Montana State. This is a great place to be, a great place to live. But also on the other side of that, I have three awesome, amazing kids that I love spending time with and seeing what they do and following what they're doing, whether it's there school or they're playing golf or playing basketball. It's balancing that time and I think I've learned how to balance that better. And I know I can give 100 percent to both and I love my team as much as I love my kids. and I think finding that balance is crucial. It's like one team, we are one family here and having Travis (Amendt) on board to help me has been huge. It frees me up in case I get to watch my daughter (Kameryn) play (golf at Weber State) or my other daughter has stuff going on or going to watch Jackson play basketball. It's been helpful and I feel like I've been able to balance that well. I just love it. I love being part of this program, I love being part of this University and being a golf coach is kinf of fun."