Jamie Bermel: For Love of Country

Each year when Kansas Men’s Golf Coach Jamie Bermel has his introductory meeting with his team to go over rules and such, he draws on an important time in his life to deliver his message.

“My rules are pretty simple,” the ninth-year coach of the Jayhawks said. “We’re going to look good – clean shoes, shirts tucked in, clean shaven and we are going to pursue excellence in everything we do, on and off the course. Average just doesn’t cut it.”

Where does this philosophy come from?

Well, a native of Keota, Iowa – a farming town with a population around 1,000 people – Bermel was given a couple of days after school ended each year by his parents to find a summer job.

And he didn’t want to farm.

So Bermel joined the Army Reserves as a junior in college. He went on to fulfill his six-year commitment in the Reserves in three different units, spanning Iowa, Indiana and Michigan before the idea of guiding a golf team to tournament championships even existed.

“You spend your first day in the military shining your shoes,” Bermel said. “It’s not important to a lot of people until they get into the program. That’s what I try to teach my guys every day. Take pride in what’s yours and pursue excellence.”

For Bermel, who is preparing to enter his 30th season as a head college golf coach, the lessons he learned from his time in the military are used daily while coaching his team.

Not only that, his time serving has given Bermel an extra sense of pride for his country.

“When you raise your hand and say you’d die for your country, it changes your perspective on what freedom really means,” Bermel said.  “Freedom is not free, I know that. There’s a sense of pride as an American citizen, and I wanted to help out. I know I was just a small part of it, but if everyone does a small part, that’s why we’re free.”

The Kansas coach would serve one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer in the Reserves. There was a lot of training, administrative office work and basic field work with weapons. Two of his units in Iowa and Indiana both got called up for Desert Storm shortly after Bermel’s six years of service.

During his time in the Reserves, Bermel was also beginning his life in golf.

A 1986 graduate of Central College in Pella, Iowa, Bermel was a member of the team’s Division III golf squad. He received his master’s from Purdue in 1988 and then worked in recreational sports at Michigan and then Drake.

In February of 1992, less than a year after he finished with the Reserves, Bermel was named head men’s golf coach at Drake.

While he was pursuing his Masters at Purdue, he considered a full-time career in the military, which would require another six-year commitment. He ultimately decided not to pursue it and wasn’t positive what was next.

The younger brother of PGA Club pro, Bermel knew he liked golf, but also knew that’s not what he wanted to do.

“The golf coach retired while I was serving as the intramural director at Drake and the athletic director at the time asked me about the job,” Bermel said. “I remember when I played at Central College, our coach would come out and play with his buddies, and I thought ‘wow, that’s a great job.’

“Of course, it hasn’t worked out like that.”

Instead, Bermel has used the discipline and lessons of sacrifice and being a good teammate to establish a standout coaching career that has produced future professionals, multiple tournament championships and an active streak of five straight NCAA Tournament appearances as the leader of the Jayhawks.

Clearly, though, military service and love of country remain extremely important to Bermel. His son, Charlie, is beginning his senior year in the Air Force Academy this year as a civil engineering major. He’s considering a full-time career in the military.

“Unfortunately for my wife and me, he likes jumping out of airplanes more than flying them,” Bermel said. “He’s figuring it out now. He has a great personality and background for it if he does want to make it his career. It has to be his choice, but he has set himself up for success in many ways.”

One thing is for sure, it will be whatever Charlie decides.

Either way, days like today – Independence Day – are important days for Bermel to reflect on his passion for his country and his time in the military.

“You think about all the people that have served this country and the sacrifices they have made,” Bermel said. “It’s a big deal. There are people who work their entire career in the military protecting our freedoms so we can have freedom of speech, the right to vote and all the things that come with this great country.

“I feel honored to serve our country, and also very blessed to live in this country.”