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Volume 68, Issue 155, Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Sports
 

Legacy haunts UH golf

Cougar Pause

Keenan Singleton

This is a story about shadows. The perception of the shadow is an alluring, intoxicating one. It is one of relaxation and comfort. 

Its reality is a stark difference. Life under the shadow is one of perpetual paranoia. And suffocating frustration.

This is the life of Mike Dirks. Well, at least it used to be. 

Athletics Director Dave Maggard has decided not to renew the contract of Dirks, the head golf coach at the University since 1994. 

"Because we haven't had the results, I decided not to renew his contract," Maggard said. 

Why? The whisper of the shadow. The hulking shadow of Dave Williams. The man who is the father of college golf. He invented the way the collegiate golf is scored today, the stroke-play format, which made it easier to tally the scores of several teams.

Williams' numbers have no mouths, but still speak for themselves.

Sixteen national titles in 36 years, including a streak of five consecutive. Fourteen conference titles. He coached 41 All-Americans, including 28 first-teamers and had 341 tournament victories. 

And cast one very large shadow. 

Dirks wasn't afraid of that shadow. He had, until 2000, had basked in some sunlight of his creation. Once the Cougars joined Conference USA during the '96-'97 season, the shadow brightened. 

But then it fell apart almost as quickly as it came together. This year, the team often finished near or at the bottom of the standings.

Williams had current PGAers Fred Couples and Fuzzy Zoeller and a stock of others. 

Dirks didn't. No disrespect to the current team, but the talent base isn't the same.

Dirks' predecessor Keith Fergus (a three-time First Team All-American at UH from 1974-77), the program sputtered. During Fergus' reign, the Cougars never finished higher than 10th in the NCAA Championships (something that only happened four times during Williams' 36-year tenure) and didn't qualify four times, something that never happened under Williams. And UH also never won the conference title (Southwest Conference).

So Dirks could blame Fergus for his woes and lack of job just as soon as could turn to Williams. Or he could turn to himself.

Where did it all go wrong? Was it lack of recruiting? Or a lack good, solid coaching? 

UH golf, which has no facility in campus, has never had a strong grip on the campus. This is an campus surrounded by an urban sprawl. This is a city where a car is a necessity, not where a good walk is spoiled.

"We haven't reached anywhere near our potential," Maggard said. "We need to be much better in our golf program. We have a tremendous history and the program has been going downhill for some time now. We need to reestablish some excitement in this program. 

Excitement? In golf? Golf is anti-excitement. But that's OK, life isn't meant to be extreme 24 hours a day.

UH doesn't need golf to be a viable commodity. But like any historic relic, the program should be restored and preserved for future use.

Maggard expects to name a coach later this week, possibly Friday. 

"Our new coach will need a combination of good coaching, managing and recruiting."

But beside that, the new guy will have to deal with the same old shadow.

 Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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