Like Father, Like Son: Woodins Share Common Love Of Golf
Kevin Woodin (right) taught Garrett his passion for the game of golf early in life.
Kevin Woodin (right) taught Garrett his passion for the game of golf early in life.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020
by Blake Timm, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

BILLINGS, Mont. – Garrett Woodin can’t remember a time when he wasn’t interested in golf.

“I’ve been into the game for as long as I can remember,” the Montana State Billings senior said. “I am sure my dad had a plastic club in my hands as soon as I could hold it.”

His memory is spot-on. “When he was young we got him a little plastic golf club set,” Garrett’s father, Kevin Woodin, said. “From there we went down to the cut-down clubs and then we had balls hitting the neighbor’s house so we had to figure out how to get softer golf balls.”

That was the beginning of shared love between Kevin, the longtime head women’s basketball coach at MSUB, and Garrett, who has spent the last four years as a key contributor on the Yellowjackets’ men’s golf team.

Golf has always been a point of connection between father and son, which proved very convenient at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. With no spring season, online classes and a virtual shutdown of college sports, Garrett and Kevin played a lot of golf.

“I didn’t have a job at the time and school was all online so you could work around it,” Garrett said. “So my dad and I pretty much played every day. What else was there to do?”

“We would get one of the first tee times at our home course in Laurel, walk 18 and then have breakfast. Then I would either go into the office or home and work,” Kevin said. “I think by the first of July I had played more golf than I had in 25 years.”

Garrett wouldn’t have it any other way. “He is probably still my favorite person to play with,” he said.

Golf has been a big part of Kevin Woodin’s life ever since his sophomore year in high school. So it was only natural for him to try and interest his three children in the game.

His two daughters, Kayleen and Toria, did not take to golf as much as other interests but Garrett was drawn to the game early. And while Kevin always prided himself in being there for all three of his children, the passion for the game with his youngest provided a unique connection.

“You try and be the dad that spends time with all of them equally and golf was such an easy connection for Garrett and me,” Kevin said. “When Garrett was growing up we would try to get out and play a lot.”

As Garrett became older, many Billings-area courses did not have a lot of junior golfers to play with. That usually meant that Garrett paired up with his dad.

“That’s how I grew up, going out on the course and playing as much as I could with him,” Garrett said. “Summers have always been a relatively free time for him so we played a lot of golf growing up.”

Garrett truly became serious about the game during his junior year at Billings West High School, where he helped lead the team to the Montana AA state title in his senior year. At a time when it is developmentally appropriate for teens to separate themselves from their parents, the Woodin’s connection only got deeper.

Before Garrett’s senior year, the Billings West golf coach abruptly resigned. The timing of the departure, just before the start of the season, left the school scrambling for a new coach. Fortunately, there was a former teacher and experienced coach that was available to fill in on short notice: Kevin Woodin.

It would not be the last time that father would coach son. Not long after Garrett began his college career, Kevin was tapped to succeed Shawn O’Brien as MSUB’s interim head men’s and women’s golf coach.

In both instances, the decision to coach golf was a group decision.

“In both cases, I asked (Garrett) if he would be okay with that,” Kevin said. “I didn’t plan on being his coach either time, but both times it was a case of something happening in the middle of the year. I don’t know, maybe Kevin is just that Band-Aid for a few months.”

For Garrett, having his dad as a coach wasn’t a big deal. “I have had him as a coach for so many sports that it’s something that I hardly realize,” Garrett said. “He’s great at being a dad and great at being a coach so I am pretty lucky.”

During both high school and college, Garrett never felt like his father singled him out or went out of his way to separate himself in a team situation. Everyone seemed to understand the dynamic and trusted Kevin’s ability to lead the team. But Kevin admits, though, the pull between coach and parent is not always easy.

In that 2015 Montana state championship, Kevin found it challenging to choose between his coach’s hat and his parent’s hat.

“(Garrett) shanked a shot on one of the first two holes,” Kevin recalls, “and he was at either four or 5-over-par after the first four holes. He wasn’t playing well and I knew it from afar. That’s where I was caught between coaching and parenting. If I stay and watch will it jinx him? I don’t think I saw him the rest of the day but he finished at 8-under-par for the remaining 32 holes.”

Garrett rebounded to shoot even-par 72 on that day and turned in a 69 on the second day to finish third overall. Billings West won the state title by 18 strokes with a record score of 580.

Fast-forward four years. After all of those pandemic rounds, the Woodins traveled to Helena for one of Montana’s top amateur tournaments, the Barnett Memorial over Memorial Day weekend. Over those three days, Garrett played the best golf of his life with three under-par rounds, topped by a 6-under-par 66 in the second round. He won with a three-round score of 209, defeating former PGA professional Joey Lovell by five strokes.

Kevin couldn’t have been happier to be part of the tournament’s limited gallery to see Garrett’s first tournament win since high school.

“They were both playing well,” Kevin said of the duel between Garrett and Lovell. “Joey is such a good player but over the last few holes, Garrett pulled away. It was great because he has been so close to winning, whether it was high school or these summer events, but then something would happen and he would fall a little short. So to finish the deal, I think, was really good for his confidence.”

While Kevin enjoyed the chance to coach Garrett at MSUB, he is just as content to watch his son shine under current head coach Jeff Allen. “I have really enjoyed the last couple of years of his career, getting to walk alongside the fairways and getting to focus on him,” Kevin said.

Ask which of them is the better golfer these days and both agree that it’s Garrett.

“About six or seven years ago I was hanging in there, but then there was a time that not only did the scores get closer but I swear that he was hitting 10 or 15 yards farther and I was hitting 10 or 15 yards shorter,” Kevin said. “Now when we play I get as many strokes as I can and I am still losing to him often.”

While Garrett admits he is the lower score on the card, there is much about his dad’s game that he admires. “Hopefully when I am at the age he is I can still play as well as he does now,” Garrett said. “He probably can’t hit it as far as he wants to but he’s pretty lethal around the greens.”

Even with all of these years playing together and sharing the game, a day on the course is still a special time for the Woodins. For Garrett, it is a chance to play, have some fun and clear his head.

“We usually try to play some kind of fun match. It’s relaxing,” Garrett said. “I can be in a really bad mood. I can be really tired but as soon as we get out to Laurel everything goes away.”

For Kevin, playing with his son is a chance to spend time with a like mind, another student of the game.

“The mental side of the game and course management has always been important to me,” Kevin said. “I talked about the game with him when he was little. Now it’s changed. I look to him to help me manage my game.”

Whatever course they play, there are always memories.

“When you go to a course that you haven’t played for a while you get these flashbacks,” Kevin said. “I’ll say, ‘Hey Garrett, I don’t know if you will remember this but I remember driving the cart out there when you were four, putting balls down and having you hit it over that little creek.’ I will see something and it will remind me of those moments.”

Garrett plans to return to the team for a regained senior year this spring and then staying in Montana to pursue his dream to become a PGA pro. As he does, you can bet that Kevin will be there every step of the way, making more memories.

“I just love playing with my dad,” Garrett said. “It’s kind of like playing with your best friend.”