Tee Time with the Edina High School Varsity Men's Golf Team

Edina High School golf team creates space for players at all levels.

If our landscape is indicative of our interests, then there’s no doubt Edina is home to some of the most avid golfers. Thanks to head coach Phillip Ebner, the Edina High School (EHS) golf team has grown from a small group of dedicated golfers to a team worthy of a strong division and middle school cohort.

When Ebner started three years ago, there were only 10 varsity and 10 junior varsity players, a small team compared to others in the area. With fundraising, determination and a desire to be all inclusive, a developmental team was added to the mix to give new and developing players an opportunity to grow. Additional coaches were added, and last year’s team boasted 82 players.

“I love golf, and I saw a lot of kids out there who wanted to learn how to play,” says Ebner, who is also a parent to an Edina alum and current EHS student. “I thought if I got the platform as head coach I could grow the game as well.”

The longtime Edina resident played for the University of Minnesota and has been involved in the Minnesota golf association for 25 years. With his coaching platform and support of the community, the team has also been able to provide access to an expensive sport to players for a flat fee of $250 a year, pulling down barriers for many potential golfers and introducing them to the courses Edina has to offer.

“Obviously Edina supports their community and kids very well,” says Ebner. “They love that golf is a great sport to learn life lessons, a great competitive sport and a lifelong sport.”

One of the fundraising opportunities is the annual Paddyshack event held at the Edina Country Club. This year’s event was held in March and included dancing and drinks like green beer for parents.

The season, which started in the middle of March, will end with the state tournament this month. And it’s competitive. With teams like Wayzata, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie in their conference, it’s always a battle for the top spot.

“Over the past five years we’ve been anywhere from first to third,” Ebner says. A team from their conference, the lake conference, has won state every year for the past five years. The addition of middle school players is a step toward long-term development and bringing Edina into the top spot.

During the season, varsity and junior varsity players compete with other schools in 16 events a year, while the developmental golfers compete against each other on teams Ebner creates. Participants don’t need to have any previous golfing skills to try out for the team, and no one is cut from the developmental team. Thanks to this—and support from coaches and captains—golfers across all levels are able to work on improving their individual game. If coaches see golfers playing well, they could have the opportunity to move up.

“Phil and his coaching staff have been great. They’re really respected by the players, and they truly want to reach out to anybody interested,” says parent Kristi Nasby. Her son Jack started on the developmental team in ninth grade and worked his way up to become one of the captains of the varsity team.

“The previous captains structured it well,” says Jack. “They left the team in a good place.”

“[The coaches] really want to work with everyone’s individual ability and make them a better golfer,” says Kristi, also noting characteristics like integrity and confidence players learn in the game carry over into daily and professional lives.

“It’s a neat thing to have Phil as a coach in the community,” parent Laura Johnson says. “He wants to grow kids.” One of Johnson’s sons was a freshman last year, and while he didn’t make varsity or junior varsity in his first year, he was committed to becoming a better golfer. Johnson was impressed with his improvement on the developmental team. “He’s a better golfer, a better person and he has a lifelong love of the sport. It’s a great group to be a part of,” she says.

Ebner is perhaps a living testament to how far golf can take you and how much you can give back. Before taking over the golf team and multiplying its size, Ebner says he gained everything from a college education to lifelong friendships through golf.

“If a kid is shooting 100 and at the end of the year he’s shooting 85, that’s where I get joy,” Ebner says. “In my life, I want to give back to golf.”

With the team now expanded to include middle school and more players signing up by the year, Ebner has his sights set on developing the larger Edina Golf Association, the first organized golf program in Edina. It’s a contrast from golf’s declining popularity nationally. With the high school season coming to a close, summer golfing is next up. Ebner is always, working towards the next round—even if he’s the golfer to best.

“He’s one of the best amateurs in the state,” says Jack. “He can still compete and beat us.”

Follow the team on Twitter or Instagram for updates on their season as they hope to add another state championship win to the Hornets’ current 169.