Furman coach 'dumbfounded' about program's end
Todd Satterfield didn’t see it coming.
When Gary Clark, Furman’s athletic director, told his longtime men’s golf coach Feb. 6 that potential budget cuts could end the Paladins’ program, “I was dumbfounded,” Satterfield said.
With a Board of Trustees vote the next day, Furman’s men’s program was shuttered, effective after the spring season.
In a statement, interim president Carl Kohrt said, “. . . we have to constantly evaluate where to strategically allocate our resources.”
Furman’s men’s golf budget – including salaries, scholarships and travel – is about $375,000-$400,000, said Satterfield, in his 18th season. Consistent with most Division I schools, that funding would rank among the smallest of the 20 sports at Furman, a 2,700-student private, liberal-arts school in Greenville, S.C.
Among the Paladins’ alumni, 1983 graduate Brad Faxon won eight times on the PGA Tour. Furman University Golf Club ranks No. 29 on the Golfweek’s Best Campus Courses list. The women’s program, which was left intact, boasts such alumnae as Betsy King, Dottie Pepper, Beth Daniel and Nike Golf chief Cindy Davis.
King, who has played a key role in fundraising for both programs, asked: “Why wouldn’t they at least approach a group of people to say, ‘What can we do to save the program?’ ”
Almost immediately, a petition among Furman golf alumni began circulating online. T.J. Blandford, a 2006 graduate, wrote to Golfweek, “Our hope is to bring attention to the leadership at Furman the extent of the support that exists for the men’s golf program.”
As of Monday afternoon, the petition had more than 1,500 signees.
Satterfield doesn’t expect a reprieve.
“A lot of people are working behind the scenes and making phone calls to see if anything can happen,” said Satterfield, who has led the Paladins to three Southern Conference titles and four NCAA regionals, most recently in 2010. “I am not very optimistic.”
Scholarships for current players and the three signees for the 2014-15 season will be honored. Two of the recruits, Gray Townsend of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Hunter Nichols of Clinton, S.C., told Golfweek that they have filed for release of their national letters-of-intent. The third, Adam Garrett of Easley, S.C., and the grandson of former Furman football coach Jimmy Satterfield (no relation to the current coach) could not be reached for comment.
Furman, No. 130 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, opens the spring in the Feb. 23-25 John Hayt Intercollegiate in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
“I need to really focus on my guys right now and get them through this,” Satterfield said.
– Beth Ann Nichols and Brentley Romine contributed