There was this time when Greg Gile and his father golfed in the same tournament — his father won, “And I finished second,” said Gile.
“He was a terrific golfer,” said the retiring Minneota Golf Coach. That memory, along with so many others, swims around in his brain.
“Only that one floats to the top.” From 1968 to today, the years have been filled with teaching, coaching, counseling, driving bus and enough kids to keep Santa Claus happy.
Through the past 51 years he’s taught kids the fine art of track, football, cross country, volleyball, basketball ... and, oh yeah, golf!
Now, his legs, hips, and even his heart, all tell him it’s time — time to remove himself from the world of golf — a world that’s consumed him ... driven him.
Back in 1967, Gile began his career by taking an assistant track coach position at Lincoln HI in Ivanhoe. That quickly evolved into assistant football, junior high boys’ basketball and head track coach in 1968.
Since then, he’s been a teacher, dean of students, counselor, athletic director, national guardsman, bus driver, announcer, Mock Trial coach, secretary, track meet manager, summer golf academy director and most of — COACH!
“For 46 years, I drove bus for the athletic teams,” Gile said. He finally had to give that up after his heart attack a couple of years ago.
“I wasn’t going to put kids’ lives on the line,” he said.
And he knew parents wouldn’t be happy to have their kids riding with a bus driver who had a heart attack. So that stage of his life ended.
He also found he couldn’t “vent” after a meet when he was driving. So it was simply better to quit driving. Greg Gile didn’t actually begin coaching golf until 1984-85.
Oh, he played plenty of golf, was club champion in Hendricks six times, but in the 1980s, he quit competitive golf and decided to teach it instead.
At Lincoln HI, he was an American Government/World History and American History teacher, high school counselor, Dean of Students, Athletic Director, coached three sports and drove the bus.
For 11 years, track was his obsession. As head coach, he trained athletes and kept his Lincoln HI teams on a competitive basis.
“Of all the sports, track took up so much time,” Gile admitted. “We were always preparing the pole vault pit — filling it with foam rubber, mattresses, even tires,” he said.
“Then there was the high jump pit.”
For years, Gile directed the Conference Meet at Ivanhoe and the Lincoln County Meet at Ivanhoe. He recalls how Verdi had a stellar track crew, with six or seven outstanding athletes.
“They were really good and often dominated the local track meets.” With all that track experience under his belt, he often got saddled with the job of region or district meet manager. “It just took so much time,” he said. During all the years in track, the name Bruce Nielson still resonates with Gile.
“He was the Minnesota State 100-meter champion his junior year. The only race he lost was when he came in second at state his senior year — and that was mostly because of a false start. That kid could run,” said Gile.
Today, Nielson runs the bowling alley in Ivanhoe. “He set records that still stand today,” related Gile. When golf finally reared it’s head and began to take over Gile’s life as a coach, he felt, “This was my niche.”
In 1975, he received an award from the Minnesota State Lions Club for saving the life of one of his girls’ basketball players who collapsed on the floor during a basketball game.
And in 1979, the Minnesota State Coaches Association awarded him a special award for developing a model Sportsmanship Program for the State of Minnesota.
“We developed a packet of information that including greeting teams that came into your place to play, escort them to their locker rooms, giving them pizza after the game — and most of all, ‘We developed the first handshake after basketball games.’ I think it was the first in the state.”
Lincoln HI was awarded a huge banner that hung in the school gymnasium for years.
“It was a lot of work,” but it set the standard for sportsmanship in the State of Minnesota. Once Gile got into the golf arena, he began to develop his own philosophy. That included teaching golfers, “You can’t focus on your opponent. They are just there.”
Instead, he taught the tactics of golf, helped his golfers conquer the terrain they’d be golfing. He spent time with them in bunkers, on the green showing them how deceiving a green can be and on each hole he’d write notes on how to play it.
He’d take his golfers to Marshall because the conference meets and section meets were held there. He’d take them to Lynd to learn how to handle a difficult course — and when Minneota was moved to Section 5, played and scouted the courses in Benson and Willmar so his players would know the layout of each course.
“There are some optical illusions,” he said. Fact is, “I can’t tell you the names of the kids on the other golf teams,” he said, adding, “But I know the angles on the golf course.” He was constantly telling his golfers not to pay attention to their opponents.
“Your competition is the golf course, not your opponents.” Over the years he’s had some great golfers competing for him. But the two who stand out he doesn’t call great golfers — “They were great athletes.”
Kyra Gores of Ivanhoe, who also golfed at Minneota, and Heidi Guttormsson were those two athletes.
“Over the years Kyra and Heidi excelled because, they have a little daring in them. Those two loved the challenge of threading the needle a little bit. They are two of the best athletes I’ve coached over the years,” he said.
While Gores only played golf, Coach Gile saw her handling a ball and knew she could have played any sport she desired. Guttormsson played other sports and played them well.
One of his greatest moments came when his Lincoln HI golf team made it to the state tournament in 2010 to 2012.
The first time they made it set the sports world on their ear.
“Nobody could believe such a small school could make it to the state tournament. The Sioux Falls TV station came out and did a story on us. It was great — COOL!” Gile pronounced.
He earned Minnesota State High School Coaches Association Golf Coach of the Year honors all three years. When the arrangement between Hendricks and Ivanhoe began to fall apart, Gile said, “There was just so much negativity floating around.”
Finally the agreement fell apart and the Ivanhoe golfers became united with the Minneota High School team.
“This was a blessing. Everything was so positive over here. Our Lincoln HI kids had been so dynamite for so long but everything went smooth. It was so positive,” he said.
After helping Coach Ralph Hagen get the Minneota girls into the state tournament in 2016, Gile took over the program the following year when Hagen retired and the girls came back from a dismal Section 5A start to win the section and earn their way back into the state tournament in 2017.
But, with his legs going, his heart acting up and his bus driving days behind him, Greg Gile began to seek someone to keep the Minneota golf program alive. He found two in former Minneota golfers Nicole Evers and Walker Hennen.
“They are such a blessing to this community,” Gile said.
“What a perfect time to step aside,” he added. Evers, who helped the team back to the state in 2017 and has gone on to school at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, volunteered to help coach the team this year. While it took a little longer for Hennen to come forward, when he did, everything fell into place. Walker Hennen will teach fifth grade at Ivanhoe this year.
“I let (athletic director) Matt Myrvik know before the season started that this was going to happen and we began to look for replacements,” said Gile.
“Nicole has remarkable insight. She golfed three years at state and knows what has to be done,” said Coach Gile.
“And she’s been so wonderful at the golf academy,” he said. That’s another Gile invention that is paying dividends. Each some he gets young people to help coach and teach other young people how to golf.
And it’s free .... but of-course, the dividend comes when those kids turn into varsity golfers. Then, as the season approached, Hennen applied. Instead of choosing between Hennen and Evers, they took them both — and Gile believes they are just what the Minneota program needs, a man and woman each coaching, but working together.
“I give a hats off to Myrvik and Supt. Dan Deitte. We got them both on board with this program,” Gile said. Although Evers and Hennen have not been approved as new coaches at this time, Gile said the plan is to put their names before the Minneota School Board.
And, of-course, Greg Gile will always be there in the background, helping at the Golf Academy, or in any way possible to keep young golfers siphoned into the varsity program.
Numbers are, “Going to be a problem for a long, long time. There are just too many things going on, like volleyball and basketball.”
He said the key to the Golf Academy is to, “Get it out of our minds that this kid can’t play golf. That kid CAN play golf, if someone gives them the time,” he said.
Gile also instituted a “Golf Rules Test,” he teaches, then tests golfers on before the season starts.
“The ones who do the best are those who have never touched a golf club before,” said Gile.
“Give a golf coach four or five, sixth grade girls and by the ninth or tenth grade you’ve got an armada,” he said.
While Gile is officially retiring at the end of this summer, he doesn’t see an end to giving kids golf lessons. As he looks forward to the next state of his life, he says, He credits that to “fabulous families,” that have taken an interest in the kids lives.
While this stage of Greg Gile’s life is ending — is excited about the future.
“I’m excited about it. We’ve always had wonderful kids — terrific young men and women,” he said.