It’s not that Greg Osbourne is a publicity hound. But he figures getting the word out about Cal State Bakersfield can only build up his golf program.
Osbourne has taken over as the Roadrunners’ director of golf, and his goal is simple: quickly improve the CSUB program and make it an NCAA Division I power.
“Golf at Cal State Bakersfield can be second to none,” Osbourne said.
A key element of his plan: recruit the top Bakersfield-area players to CSUB.
“You hear about all the (high school) players who want to go away,” Osbourne said. “But in speaking to local high school coaches, I find out a lot of players don’t want to go away. They want to play for the local university.
“I’m going to build a tremendous program here,” he said. “I just need people to know I’m going to do it.”
Osbourne, 55, began his CSUB job on June 6, taking over for Dave Barber, who retired last spring after leading the Roadrunners’ golf program for 13 years. Barber, who grew up in Bakersfield and has been a teaching professional for more than 30 years, will remain on the CSUB staff as one of Osbourne’s assistants.
Also returning will be Tony Bernardin, who will continue to work with the CSUB women golfers.
Osbourne said he has been impressed with the local golf community’s commitment to provide quality courses for his men’s and women’s teams to use.
“What we have in Bakersfield a lot of big-time universities don’t have,” Osbourne said. “That’s the availability of some tremendous golf courses and practice facilities. I don’t think a lot of locals realize the opportunities we have here — the opportunity for a golfer to come here and play and practice at some of the finest courses anywhere. The country clubs here actually like the players. The practice facilities here are phenomenal.”
Osbourne was familiar with some of the Bakersfield golf courses from his years of coaching at Glendale Community College, which plays in the same conference as Bakersfield College. But now he’s developing his own relationships with the locals.
“Bakersfield Country Club has been fantastic,” he said. “Seven Oaks is great, but we can’t play there all the time. RiverLakes has been tremendous. Rio Bravo treats us like kings. I met the guy at Sundale and he’s been nothing but great.”
Osbourne was Glendale’s coach for six years. He re-started that program when he was hired by the Vaqueros. He grew up in Southern California playing many sports before he concentrated on football and golf.
He played both sports at Glendale before that school dropped golf, then played golf and football at Cal Lutheran University.
In 1986, he taped a TV commercial for Titlist that aired during golf tournaments. He became a commercial real estate broker, then formed a transportation company that took workman’s comp patients to their doctor or lawyer.
“Every job I’ve had was trying to make enough money so I could continue to play golf,” he said.
He became a card-carrying member of the Screen Actors Guild when he did the Titlist commercial. “I always kept my SAG card up to date,” he said.
That came in handy when his good friend, noted actor James Caan, got him a bit part on Caan’s TV show “Las Vegas,” which ran for five years. Osbourne also became a teaching pro at some Glendale- and Burbank-area golf courses.
The Glendale College coaching job followed.
Caan was a reference when Osbourne applied for the Roadrunner job.
Caan, in addition to his role as Big Ed Deline on “Last Vegas,” is known for his roles in such notable films as The Godfather, Misery and Eraser, and the made-for-TV move Brian’s Song.
Caan served as an assistant coach at times during Osbourne’s tenure as the Glendale’s head golf coach. He said the two met in the mid-1990s.
“I was just comic relief,” Caan said in a telephone interview.”He’s an extraordinary good teacher.
Caan said he and Osbourne often exchange good-natured barbs at one another.
“He’s the most intense guy I know except for me,” Caan said. “We scream at each other and people think we’re about to hit each other with our clubs. But then we put our arms around each other and smile.”
It’s that intensity that fuels Osbourne’s passion for coaching, Caan said.
“He’ll work harder than any student he has,” Caan said. “He’ll sit there with someone for 10 hours and keep going as long as the kid wants to work.
“I’ve met a lot of great teachers who maybe know as much as him, but it’s about how you communicate and how much passion you. He loves to teach.”
Caan added: “You’ve got a really good coach up there. If he can recruit some guys, he’ll be great. You wait and see.”
Osbourne’s job goes beyond coaching. The men’s and women’s golf programs must raise all of their own funds to survive.
“Fundraising is very difficult,” Osbourne said. “You can talk to people about it being a write-off or about how it’s worthwhile to donate to something.
“But one thing about making a donation to us: You’ll see progress. Everyone who donates to this program is vested and a part of this program. To me, that’s just as important as the guy who tees off at No. 3 for me.
“I relish the opportunity when I talk to them.”