After 40 years and more than 400 combined wins as the coach of Battle Ground High School’s boys and girls golf programs, Eric Liljedahl is calling it quits.
After resigning from the girls program before last season, the longtime Tigers coach decided to step away from the boys team in March once the WIAA cancelled postseason tournaments.
“COVID had a lot to do with it,” said the 66-year-old. “But it was probably just time. I think I was just ready. You do your thing and do the best you can. I can look back, there were certain things I wanted to achieve and I did them. I was ready.”
While Liljedahl surpassed the 200-win mark with the girls a few years ago, a run that included a state title in the 1990-91 season, it wasn’t until this past season in which he eclipsed the same milestone with the boys.
“You just hunt and peck and slowly pick up those wins. That was one of the things I wanted to do,” Liljedahl said.
Liljedahl never anticipated taking to golf as much as he did.
He was a football star, went on to play for the now defunct Yankton College in South Dakota and briefly signed on as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1978.
In 1979, he started teaching at Battle Ground and the golf team needed a coach. Liljedahl decided to give it a shot.
“Once I started, it just became the love of my life in terms of coaching and seeing how kids responded,” he said. “It’s a great game.”
In the early ’90s, the girls team hit its stride, finishing in the top 10 at state several times including taking home the title in 1990.
One of the girls who stood out at the time, Deena Worden (now Robertson), went on to play at Western Washington University and will take over the boys program for Liljedahl. Robertson coached the girls team last year.
The boys team in Liljedahl’s reign is highlighted by a pair of players who went on to become college all-Americans.
Chad Hall, a 2013 graduate, shined at Cal State East Bay in Hayward, Calif., and Duane Otterson starred at Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, Ore.
“Over that span of time, the thing that sticks out to me is just the support of the parents,” Liljedahl said. “The willingness to sacrifice their time, energy and resources speaks volumes to Battle Ground’s golf program over the last 40 years.
“I could go on forever listing all the parents that donated money, that bought bags and clubs and clothes just selflessly for the kids that needed stuff. You can’t do this if you don’t have that support.”