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Niskanen steps down as Bemidji State men's golf coach

When Don Niskanen turned in the Bemidji State University scorecard at the 2010 NCAA Division II Men's Golf West/Central Super Regional on May 5, it would stand as his last official duty as BSU's head men's golf coach.

Niskanen recently made the decision to retire from his position at BSU after holding the post for the last 17 seasons.

Niskanen, a four-time Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Coach of the Year recipient, led the Beavers to four conference team titles (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000) and seven second-place finishes. During his tenure, five players garnered individual NSIC championships, including Tom Jenkins (1998) and Mitch Mackedanz (2008-09), while 35 members of the BSU golf team have earned All-NSIC honors.

Niskanen's teams qualified for district, regional and national competitions on several occasions, including the 2010 campaign, and most notably a 1999 District V runner-up run and a 2006 Central Region Invitational championship.

In addition to his role on the course, Niskanen has worked tirelessly to develop the program from the ground up. His fund raising efforts have blossomed into a several scholarships, including two that have since been endowed.

"I really can't say enough about Don Niskanen and the job he has done with the men's golf program here at Bemidji State University," said BSU Director of Athletics Rick Goeb. "He is the type of person that just loves to be at the course working with his team."

Goeb added, "There has never been anything more important to Nisky than to see his student-athletes succeed on the course, but more importantly as young men."

"Yes, I am somewhat remorseful," said Niskanen when asked about retiring from a successful career. "But it's just time. The success that we've had over the years is all due to the fine young men, and good players, that I've had the privilege to coach at Bemidji State."

Niskanen's commitment to golf spans more than 50 years, dating back to his senior season at BSU as a letter winner in 1959 -- just two years after being introduced to the game. Niskanen, a veteran of the United States Army after a two-year term in the Korean conflict, would go on to make a name for himself on the golf courses of northern Minnesota, earning the Bemidji Town and Country Club Championship and Senior Championship along the way.

Niskanen has coached several collegiate standouts and worked one-on-one with golfers who have gone on to the professional ranks.

A 1959 graduate of Bemidji State, Niskanen entered the coaching ranks at Bagley High School, where he coached the football and basketball teams. In 1965, he took the reins at Bemidji Junior High as head football coach, and after years of polishing his golf game, Niskanen accepted additional responsibility as head middle school golf coach in 1985. Following his retirement from the Bemidji School District in 1992, BSU called on Niskanen's golf expertise to lead the Beavers' golf program beginning in 1994.