Notebook: Watney retiring, but leaves behind legacy
Over the past three-and-a-half decades Mike Watney has done his fair share of traveling – around the country, around the world.
The bulk of that traveling has revolved around his job and included having a group of young and energetic college student-athletes in tow.
And just about all of it took him to golf courses as the head coach at Fresno State.
Come this summer, Watney, 62, will still do some traveling. Only this time it will be at his leisure while spending some quality time with his wife, Paula. He’ll spend more time with his grandchildren and help his daughter Kelly Winter (one of four children along with Josh, Heidi and Dustin), who is the volleyball coach at Fresno Pacific.
That’s because after 35 years of leading Fresno State’s men’s golf program, Watney plans to retire at the end of the current season.
He will leave behind a legacy, not only at the university he attended and graduated from in 1973, but within the State of California, in particular the Fresno area, and in college golf as well.
Watney truly is on of the game’s good guys and his presence along the college trail will be missed, as a coach and as a friend.
“I just think the time is right for me (to retire),” Watney said. “It’s been a nice, long and enjoyable run and one that has filled my life with so many lasting memories.
“It’s been an absolute joy to come to work every day,” said Watney, whose tenure at Fresno State spans nine athletic directors and who by far has the most seniority among Bulldogs coaches (baseball coach Mike Batesole is a distant second going into his 11th season). “It’s interesting to see how Fresno State has changed. I guess things change in everything, but I know one thing, I’ll always love Fresno.”
Watney was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame in 2007 and last year gained induction into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame.
On Feb. 6 this year at Sunnyside Country Club, Watney gained yet another prestigious honor. He became the recipient of The First Tee Lifetime Achievement Award.
“This is a great and special honor because of the organization The First Tee is,” Watney said. “The core values they teach young people is what I believe in.”
During his coaching career Watney has produced 29 All-Americans. His teams captured 12 conference titles, include consecutive wins from 1986-91. His teams have qualified for 16 NCAA Championships and 17 NCAA region champioship. In 1990, he guided the Bulldogs to the best NCAA finish in Fresno State history – a fifth place.
He’s been named district, regional and conference coach of the year numerous times.
In addition, Watney has served as a liaison between Japanese and U.S. golf with his involvement with the annual Topy Cup. He has accompanied six of America’s top players (four men and two women) to Japan for the event and has served as its chariman since 1996.
Many of Watney’s former players have gone on to have success in the buisness world and the golf world on both the club professional level and the PGA Tour level.
The most notable touring pro out of Fresno State is his nephew, Nick, a three-time All-America who has won five PGA Tour titles.
“My uncle, he obviously must’ve been doing a lot of things right to hang around (coaching) for 35 years,” Nick said. “I know he had a trememdous influence on me, both as a player and a person.”
Watney not only had a huge influence on all the players that have worn the Bulldog colors as Fresno State golfers, but on the game of golf as well.
If ever there was a coach who deserved that one parting shot it would be Mike Watney.
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TCU sophomore Julien Brun notched his second win of the season beating teammate Eli Cole by five shots at the Wyoming Desert Classic. It was his fifth career victory and equally impressive it marked the 13th time he has finished in the top 10 in his 18 career starts with the Horned Frogs.
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T.D. Luten has been named director of golf operations for the Duke men’s golf program. He takes on the position after serving the previous seven years as executive director of The First Tee of the Triangle.
Luten’s duties will include a variety of administrative tasks as well as playing a key role in donor, sponsor and alumni engagement. Also, he will organzie ad run the Rod Myers Invitational while also overseeing Duke’s recruiting efforts.
“I was really excited about the chance to hire T.D.,” said Duke coach Jamie Green. “His vibrant and engaging personality allows him to work well with influentional people both on a national and local scale. He has made a quick impact with our players and we look forward to further development and growth with him on board.”
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California’s win at the John Burns Intercollegiate Feb. 22 was not only impressive (27 shots over New Mexico), it was also a milestone victory for the school’s golf program and head coach Steve Desimone.
It was the team’s sixth win in seven starts this season to tie a school record. It also was the third consecutive win in this event for the Bears, the No. 1 team in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings. And maybe best of all, it was the 50th career victory for Desimone.
This was a pretty big day for our program,” Desimone said after the Burns win. “This was quite a day in a lot of different places, but the most important thing is that we won and we did it in an absolutely dominating fashion.
“The thing is, if you do this long enough and have some success, you’re going to win some. But 50 is quite a number and I’m very pleased,” Desimone said about his personal milestone. “A lot of great players have come through our program who have certainly contributed to that success in every respect. This is a very special moment for me and for our program.”
And, it’s a good bet that number will continue to increase over the remainder of this spring season.