Bethel University’s women’s golf team made program history when they won the NCCAA National Championship in the fall of 2021. Since the start of the team in 2004, the Pilots have been to Nationals nine years in a row after qualifying from the North Central Region Competition in Chicago. However, the closest they had come to winning in previous years was third place.

Chris Hess ‘95, associate athletic director, director of golf and head women’s golf coach, started coaching at Bethel in the Fall of 1994 and led a variety of sports in different roles before retiring from coaching. However, right before the women’s golf fall season started in 2021, he was called back to be the head coach after being retired for three years.

“It’s a very special championship for me. I thought my coaching career was done. To come back and win a national title with this team was an amazing thing,” Hess says.

Five of the 12 players on the team went on to compete at nationals. It was always their goal from the beginning of the season to make it to nationals and win the championship. The competition was high, and the scores became close with the runner-up team, but Bethel pulled ahead and won by 49 shots.

Team member Katie Blauw, a junior business management major, attributes much of their success to the constant support of their families and friends, coaches both past and present, as well as the close-knit team dynamic they have.

“The feeling was surreal, like a childhood dream came true. Our hard work throughout the preseason and regular season really paid off,” Blauw says.

Looking ahead to next season, the team has eyes on the conference championship, and they hope to make it to the NAIA National Championship as well.

“We want to be better each day. Just because you win a title doesn’t mean you can’t be better,” Hess says.


Chris Hess will be inducted into the NCCAA Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2022. The Hall of Fame award recognizes individuals who have outstanding leadership and high moral character while maintaining a Christian lifestyle with integrity. While Hess has coached at Bethel University for over 27 years, this achievement was something that came as a surprise.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” he says.

Hess is one of three who will be inducted this year at the ceremony in Virginia Beach, Va., on June 2, 2022.

“It’s also another platform for me to share what Jesus Christ has done in my life. It really fuels the fire for me to be Salt and Light on this campus, to love our students and hopefully make an impact on them in a powerful way,” Hess says.