by Alan Babbitt
How do you sum up an accomplished athletic career like Josh Gibson's at Hope College?
His golf coach, Scott Lokers, offers a pure iron shot of an answer.
"He's the best player we've ever had in the Hope program," Lokers said.
Gibson concluded his competitive career with the Flying Dutchmen with a national runner-up performance at the NCAA Division III Championships last week at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky.
One of only two golfers in the field to finish 72 holes below par, the senior from Grandville, Michigan (Grandville HS) went 1-under for the tournament. He ended up two strokes out of first place after shooting a 1-under-par 71 during Friday's final round.
"He was really close to being champion once again. A few more putts could have gone in. He just burned some edges," Lokers said. "To finish this tournament under par on this challenging course is really an accomplishment."
"It's a little disappointing, but, at the same time, I played some great golf," Gibson said. "I was happy to see good shots the whole week. I'm also really happy I gave it my best effort for my final go-around."
Photos of Josh Gibson by Mark Mahan (top left), Golf Coaches Association of America (bottom left) and Alan Babbitt (bottom right)
It has been an exceptional college golf career for Gibson, Hope's third PING All-American by the Golf Coaches Association of Michigan and first to earn the honor more than one. Next, he will turn pro and try to Web.com Tour Q-School this fall.
Gibson's golf bag is full of unmatched accomplishments for one Flying Dutchmen golfer.
In 2018, Gibson received the Jack Nicklaus Division III Player of the Year award from the golfing legend himself. In 2019, he became Division III's first two-time recipients of the Nicklaus award.
In addition to being Hope's first NCAA individual champion in 2017, Gibson has carded three Top 10 individual finishes at nationals. He also tied for 10th in 2018. He has three of the top four NCAA finishes for any Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association golfer.
Gibson is the first Flying Dutchmen golfer to claim MIAA Most Valuable Golfer three consecutive seasons. He joins Eric Wohlfield (1998-99, 2001) as three-time MVPs at Hope.
In MIAA play, Gibson has set a league record with a career stroke average of 72.4. He owns the single-season MIAA scoring average as well at a school-record 69.0 during the 2018 fall season.
Gibson fired three of the top four MIAA seasons in Flying Dutchmen history. He averaged a second-best 71.6 in 2017 and a fourth-best 72.2 in 2016.
Gibson tied the MIAA record for lowest round in any league event with a 6-under-65 at Trine University's Zollner Golf Course on September 22, 2018. The course record made him the fourth MIAA golfer to reach 65 in a league tournament.
Then, there's that stupendous, stunning and breathtaking round of 61 — yes 61 — he fired at Grande Golf Club in Jackson, Michigan on September 15, 2017. Ten birdies. Six pars. One eagle. And just one blemish, a bogey on the par-3 17th.
Yet, first and foremost, Gibson is a team player. He reveled in the Flying Dutchmen's feats as much as his own.
Gibson helped the Flying Dutchmen post the best two finishes at nationals for any Hope College or MIAA men's golf team with sixth-place efforts in 2017 and 2018. He played on four NCAA Championship qualifying teams, three of which finished in the Top 10.
In MIAA play, the Flying Dutchmen claimed four tournament titles and three regular-season championship with Gibson in their lineup. Last fall, Hope set a league record with a six-round scoring average of 286.3 that bettered the Flying Dutchmen's previous mark in 2016 by seven strokes.
Gibson wanted everyone experience the kind of success he had after winning a national title, teammate Ben Kramer said.
"His leadership really grew," Kramer said. "He became even more invested in helping everyone succeed. He saw what was possible and wanted everyone else to achieve it. He wanted to put in the extra work but also still have fun because that's the most important thing."
In all, Gibson played 90 rounds of golf for the Flying Dutchmen, including 85 in stroke play. He had 6,167 total strokes and a 72.55 career scoring average.
So many lasting memories, too.
"The fact I am such good friends with all the guys on the team made my time at Hope so much more fun," Gibson said.