Mark Bender graduated from Tacoma’s Wilson High School in 1967. That was early in the Rams’ 24-year streak of state boys swimming championships that were coached by Dick Hannula. Fifty years later, Bender built an unfathomable success streak of his own. The Bellarmine Prep girls golf team has won the past eight 4A state championships under Bender’s guidance. The exceptional dominance of the state golf scene has earned Bender national coach of the year honors twice – from USA Today in 2016 and the National High School Coaches Association in 2017. This is Bender’s second stint as Bellarmine’s coach. He also coached the Lions girls to the state title in 2000 giving him nine total state championships. When he took a break from coaching (2003-2007), his daughter Hailey – once a standout Bellarmine and UW golfer – coached the Lions to two state titles in four years. It would be one thing to teach kids exceptional technique and shot-making ability but for Bender, coaching is as much about development of the person as development of the swing. “I do this to help kids grow and make them better people and help them figure out what golf and life are all about — even for the girls that aren’t going to play NCAA Division I golf,” Bender told The News Tribune for a story about his national honors. “They’ve all become such great friends. That’s what I love. That camaraderie they have keeps me young and it keeps me exited to coach. I love watching them grow from coming in as freshmen and seeing how they are as seniors, and we’ve always tried to create this bond and this team because one player doesn’t make a team. We’ve always built this from the bottom up and not the top down, and that’s been the key to our success.” That success has equated to 14 state appearances over his two stints coaching the Bellarmine girls. The 2017 season was the sixth year in a row that Bellarmine’s top six golfers all placed in the top 40 at the state championships. It was the first year that eight Bellarmine golfers finished in the top 40 after Bender successfully negotiated a WIAA rule change that allowed more individual qualifiers from one school to be allowed. Bender lobbied that it was unfair that he would have to leave golfers out of the state tournament who would have been state qualifiers if they were on another team. A longtime supporter of Bellarmine athletics, Bender and his wife Terry, have three adult children; Hailey Bender-Dawson, Katie Bender-Pardee who also golfed at Bellarmine and Western Washington University and Bryan Bender who golfed at Bellarmine. There are also six grandchildren to teach golf over the next several years.