SMU lures Gregory from Augusta State

Augusta State head coach Josh Gregory (right) talks with Henrik Norlander during the final round of stroke play at the NCAA Championship.

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STILLWATER, Okla. – After building Augusta State into a national-championship program, Josh Gregory is returning to SMU.

Gregory, who coached Augusta State’s men for nine seasons, leading the Jaguars to the 2010 and 2011 national titles, will replace Jay Loar as SMU men’s head coach, Golfweek has learned. Loar’s contract was not renewed after 13 seasons at the Dallas school.

For Gregory, it will be a homecoming. He played four seasons for the Mustangs, competing in three national championships, and was the team captain in 1996-97.

“I have always dreamed about working at my alma mater,” Gregory said at Karsten Creek Golf Club, where his ASU team won the NCAA Championship for the second consecutive year. “It is a dream come true. The opportunity for myself and for my family to go back to a place where I played college golf – and you don’t get that chance but maybe once in your coaching career – and for that to come about right now, at the right time, the right place for myself and having an 8-month-old, it was a no-brainer.”

Gregory replaced Jay Seawell, who left to take the coaching job at Alabama, in fall 2002 at Augusta State. Before that appointment, he was men’s and women’s assistant coach at North Carolina State.

Gregory, 36, a native of Memphis, Tenn., directed the Jaguars to 18 tournament titles, including the school’s first national championship in any sport, last year at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn., where Augusta State upset top-ranked Oklahoma State in the championship match. Gregory was named 2010 Golfweek Coach of the Year and was recognized by the Golf Coaches Association of America for a similar award. Gregory guided the Jaguars to eight NCAA regionals and five NCAA Championships.

“First and foremost, I don’t get the opportunity at SMU if it were not for Augusta State taking a chance and hiring me nine years ago and giving me the opportunity to succeed,” Gregory said. “I don’t have this success without our athletic department, athletic director and most importantly our players. The players give you these chances. That’s the reason you get looked at for these kind of possibilities.”

Gregory pointed to recent coaching hires in football and basketball as a signal that SMU is an athletic program on the move.

“What Mr. (Steve) Orsini (the athletic director) has done with the commitment to athletics, with the football program bringing in June Jones and the basketball program bringing in Matt Doherty, they are making a serious commitment to athletics,” Gregory said.

It’s not just basketball and football. SMU has a new golf practice facility – the Payne Stewart Learning Center – located at the Dallas Athletic Club. The late Stewart, a three-time major champion, including two U.S. Opens, played at SMU. His son Aaron will be a senior next fall for the Mustangs.

“SMU is committed to winning,” Gregory said. “They want to do it the right way and give you the opportunity to travel and play an elite schedule and do things that you dream (of) as a coach,” Gregory said. “There is a serious amount of upside. It was a dream come true for my family and I, and an opportunity I could not pass up.”

SMU, No. 51 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, finished its season with a sixth-place showing at the NCAA West Regional, one spot out of qualifying for the NCAA Championship.

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