Edwards a double Hall of Famer

Mikaela Koski
Thursday, April 11, 2019
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Paul Edwards

If you take a walk down the hallway lined with trophies by the gym in Columbus High School and look at the state champion awards, there is a common name that spans three different sports: Coach Paul Edwards.

Edwards coached 26 years at CHS, during which he helped facilitate a total of nine state championships in football, basketball, and golf.

He recently received some of the highest recognition a coach can achieve for his hard work and success. Edwards was recently named an incoming member of two hall of fames within the same number of weeks. This summer, he will be inducted into the Montana Coaches Association (MCA) Hall of Fame, as well as the Rocky Mountain College (RMC) Athletic Hall of Fame.

Edwards was a member of the Battlin’ Bears golf team during his time at RMC. After graduating college in 1966, he took a position at Reed Point that allowed him to serve as the head mentor for the boys basketball and track and field teams. Edwards worked for five years at Reed Point, then served as a basketball assistant coach in Dillion at Beaverhead County High School for one year.

It was then that Edwards found Columbus, the place he would plant roots and help many athletic programs prosper. He served as assistant football coach for all 26 years, as head boys basketball coach for four seasons, and as head golf coach for 21 seasons. Edwards was also the Columbus athletic director for six years.

The student athletes at CHS found great success under Edwards’s guiding hand. As football defensive coordinator, he was on the sidelines for six state championship games; the Cougars came home victorious three times. Edwards participated in a pair of state basketball championships, one of which Columbus won.

While every state championship is important and memorable, it may be the five consecutive state golf titles – a Montana High School Association record – for the program he founded, that had the greatest impact.

Edwards recalled how the Columbus golf program got on its feet. He said he was approached by an administrator with the idea because there had been some interest shown by the students. At the time, the golf course in Columbus had sand greens, and the first year of the program the golf team only had a handful of members. Edwards got no salary his first season, and drove his own car to all the meets.

After the Stillwater Golf Course was updated to have grass greens, Edwards said, the CHS program began to attract more kids. As the program became more established, it began producing golfers that achieved personal golf titles several seasons in a row.

Edwards remembered the time fondly, saying during the height of the program, the competition to make the Columbus Cougar golf team was tougher than the competition the golfers would face at meets. He said the kids were great competitors that hated to lose, and that drove the team’s success.

That, Edwards said, was his favorite part about coaching – the players. Whether they were on a football field, basketball court, or golf course, connecting with and helping the students was the best part of the gig for Edwards.

He emphasized that the success his teams had over the years was because of the quality athletes and players he had the privilege of coaching, adding, “You don’t get success without good kids.”

During his 32 years of coaching, Edwards racked up countless memories, but he was able to name a couple of his favorites. For golf, it was the state championship that was held in Cut Bank. Columbus had to take on Three Forks in a one-hole playoff to see who would take home the title. The Cougars won – out of four golfers, Columbus ended the hole five under par.

All of the state football championships were also memorable for Edwards. He said his favorite of the three was when the Cougars defeated Frenchtown in 1992.

As for the pair of hall of fame nominations, Edwards said he is amazed at the opportunity and that the nominations came within about a week of each other.

Edwards serves on the Hall of Fame committee for Rocky, and he had no idea the nomination was coming. He explained that in recent years, the RMC Athletic Hall of Fame has made it a priority to include one alumnus who found success coaching, not only playing, sports.

Both hall of fame inductions will be celebrated this summer. The MCA Awards Ceremony will be held in Great Falls on Aug. 1, and the RMC Hall of Fame Banquet will be held on Sept. 20 in Billings.