"The Kennedy assassination; the Lyndon Johnson presidency; the Vietnam War. These were events that occurred around the time Steve Prothero first started his tenure here at Willamette, in the fall of 1963. Currently in this 39th year as head gold coach and 42nd year as a math professor, he continues to demonstrate leadership in both the academic and athletic spheres of the Willamette campus. Acting as the Chairman of the Math Department and the trainer to a peaking group of men on the gold course, plans for retirement are out of the question for Prothero.
'There are days when I think about it seriously, and there are other days when I think I'd be crazy about doing it.'
Prothero commented. 'I guess that's a way of saying I enjoy it here. I can't think of something I'd rather do over an extended period of time.'
Prothero's life history has followed a unique course of chance and spontaneity that inevitably directed him to Willamette University.
Prothero grew up in Portland for approximately the first ten years of his life before moving to the Eastern Oregon town of Hermiston. High school provided him with an outlet for athletic competition, where he participated in baseball and basketball; golf was not offered at the secondary school level. Prothero graduated with honors holding holding intentions of military service.
His prestigious academic achievement and athletic involvement granted him appointments to both the Air Force and Naval academies.
However, Prothero's dreams of service were discredited when his significant hearing loss disabled him from passing the physical examination. His acceptance was compromised as a result. He decided to attend Oregon State University, where he graduated with a degree in Math. Prothero finished the undergrad program on a Sunday, got married the following Saturday, and began his graduate program at OSU ten days later. At this point, he began playing golf on a regular basis. Upon completion of this graduate studies at the age of 23, he was eager fro employment as a math professor. His first attempt at landing a job consisted of a letter to Willamette University inquiring about a position he had heard about from a friend. He was contacted with encouragement to apply, and soon thereafter, found himself teaching math in Salem. At the time of his arrival, there were only 2 other professors in the Math department on a campus of nearly 1100 students. Prothero said that he finds himself thinking often about what his existence might have been like if he would have enrolled into the Air Force academy: 'My life would have certainly gone in a different direction. I might be dead.' As a pilot, he would have undoubtedly seen time in the Vietnam War.
Thankful for what he has fallen into here at Willamette, his dual involvement on campus grants him an experience the few faculty members get the chance to share. Coaching offers a 'nice change of pace. It's nice to get to know people on a different level. You get to know people better when you travel with them.' To Prothero, the most appealing aspects of the University are the strong students, small class size, and the collegiality of a math department that gets along very well. His wife Marilyn is currently staffed at Chemeketa Community College as a teacher of English as a Second Language.
Prothero has seen the golf program at Willamette evolve over the years as the game has adapted to innumerable new technologies, but one thing remains the same about the team: 'They're fun guys to be around independently of whether they are any good or not.' Fortunately, a nucleus of golfers that feed off of one another's talent will lead the team toward a second NWC championship in two years. Two of those key players, juniors Rio Kuteira and Cord Jonson, spoke on behalf of their coach.
'He brings years and years and years of experience to the team,' Kuteira said. 'I'm looking forward to celebrating his 40th year of coaching with him.'
Having realized so much thus far, Prothero feels content at where he is now in his life. There is just one thing he has he eyes set on for now: 'I wish I could get my handicap down a little bit.'"
Written by Alex Compton.