2005: Crooks, Camels eye another crown
It’s not unusual for John Crooks to arrive at Charlotte (N.C.) Douglas International Airport with his women’s team, and depart a few hours later with the Campbell men. Such is life as a dual coach.
With 26 players to keep track of, there’s rarely a dull moment for Crooks, who will lead both teams into conference championship play over the next two weeks. In his 15 years at Campbell, Crooks has collected a dozen conference crowns – five in the Big South and seven since the Buies Creek, N.C., school joined the Atlantic Sun Conference.
“If you want to know what excitement is, get in a van after a team victory,” said Crooks, a former insurance salesman. “That’s why people coach.”
With two teams, Crooks, 55, gets double the fun. His 49 women’s victories trail only Duke’s Dan Brooks (87) among active Division I women’s coaches. The men have claimed 28 team titles with Crooks at the helm. Double the pleasure, however, also means double the responsibilities.
“Two teams are like two children, and you have to be very careful that you give each team the same amount of everything,” he said. “That’s the challenge.”
A former U.S. Junior champion and aspiring playing professional, Crooks works diligently with his teams at joint sessions at the school’s 32-acre practice facility and 36-hole golf complex. While Crooks’ youthful men’s team continues to “jell,” the women have racked up four team titles and are No. 39 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
“I’ve had teams in the past where there was a big difference between No. 1 and No. 6,” said Crooks of his women’s team. “Fortunately, if we’ve had some success this year, it’s because the difference is minute.”
Sofia Gorelik leads the team with a 75.5 stroke average, while Alejandra Shaw is close behind at 75.6. The women will be seeking their seventh A-Sun title in 10 years April 11-13 in DeLand, Fla.
The 158th-ranked Campbell men, led by freshman Fredric Sundberg, will have their work cut out at the A-Sun Championship April 18-20 in Nashville, Tenn. Of course, simply keeping up with their Camel counterparts often seems difficult.
“Maybe (the men) get a little jealous, but they don’t say anything,” said Gorelik with a laugh. “I think they try to work harder just to beat us.”
As far as Crooks is concerned, there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition among his teams. Because in Buies Creek, everyone’s heading toward the same goal – conference titles and spots in the NCAA regionals.