Two-time All-American, 17-year pro Purdy good choice to replace LaRoseby Javier Morales on May. 20, 2012, under Sports
Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category. For a different look at University of Arizona sports, check out Javier’s unique Web site: WILDABOUTAZCATS.net
Almost seven years to the day Ted Purdy won his lone PGA Tour victory — the 2005 Byron Nelson Championship — the former Arizona golfer is yearning for another significant accomplishment.
Landing the men’s golf head coaching position at his alma mater, replacing one of his mentors, Rick LaRose, would surpass the euphoria of Purdy’s victory on that magical day of May 15, 2005 in Dallas. Becoming the Wildcats’ coach would assure Purdy many days and — hopefully for him — years of fulfillment on the golf course.
Included with his resume that he sent to Arizona director of athletics Greg Byrne, Purdy supplied a cover letter that begins, “As a University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame member, I have a great passion for our school, the athletic department and especially for the golf program. Rick LaRose built a tremendous UA golf tradition and I am the person who can continue the tradition going forward.”
LaRose announced his retirement last month effective at the end of the season after coaching the Wildcats for 34 years. Byrne scored a touchdown with the hire of a big-name coach — Rich Rodriguez — as the new Arizona football coach. One GolfWeek magazine writer suggests Byrne must come through with another marquee name to replace LaRose, who according to Lance Ringler of GolfWeek, built the Arizona program into equaling the stature of Notre Dame in football.
“The Wildcats, like the Fighting Irish in football, have not been mentioned with the elite programs for several years,” Ringler wrote in an April 26 column. “And in this win-now society, Arizona has its work cut out. If Arizona wishes to get back to where LaRose once had the program, it needs a name coach, what I like to call a sexy hire.”
Among LaRose’s most notable accomplishments was coaching the men’s and women’s teams to NCAA titles in 1992 and 1996, respectively — the only coach in NCAA history to win both. He has coached some of the most notable collegiate golfers of the last four decades, including Ricky Barnes, David Berganio, Jim Furyk, Robert Gamez, Henry Liaw, Eric Meeks, Chris Nallen, Rory Sabbatini, Larry Silveira, Mike Springer, Manny Zerman, and, of course, Purdy.
“I played more competitive NCAA rounds than any other UA golfer, past or present,” Purdy, 38, writes in his cover letter.
Purdy, an All-Pac-10 academic and athletic selection and a two-time All-American, lists his career earnings at $8 million worldwide. He, however, takes most of his pride in founding the Ted Purdy Foundation in 2006 and operating a charity golf event that supported A Stepping Stone Foundation from 2006-2011.
The Ted Purdy Foundation donates to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Arnold Palmer’s Children’s Hospital. A Stepping Stone Foundation provides a tuition free, high quality, developmental preschool program. It provides help for children at risk of school failure due to literacy issues.
Purdy’s community work and ongoing presence in golf circles, participating in and attending events, exhibits a characteristic befitting of a coach who can represent an institution well. Moreover, he is a teacher of his craft, having played golf since he was in diapers. The story goes that his school bus picked him up at the driving range and dropped him off there after school.
“I believe if I were to become the UA golf coach, I’d be the only coach with a PGA Tour victory, certainly the one with the highest career golf earnings,” Purdy writes. “My golf experience will be a huge recruiting asset, along with knowing most of the influential people in the golf industry.”
It’s not too often that an alumnus becomes a head coach at his or her alma mater. Some athletic directors shy away from it, believing the best possible candidate might be sacrificed to keep the natives happy. But it can work. Examples include Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy, former Florida football coach Steve Spurrier (now at South Carolina), and of course, Paul “Bear” Bryant, the former legendary coach at Alabama.
Former Stanford standout Conrad Ray is coaching the Cardinal’s men’s golf team. He guided them to the 2007 NCAA title. Nothing wrong with having a coach around who has the utmost pride in his or her school, is there?
Ringler writes in his GolfWeek article that Oregon’s Casey Martin is likely high on Arizona’s list because Byrne, who formerly worked at Oregon and Oregon State, knows Martin. Ringler also lists Arkansas’ Brad McMakin, Iowa’s Mark Hankins, and San Diego State’s Ryan Donovan.
Purdy knows all the complexities of the Wildcat program that an outsider may take a while to understand.
“As a former player at the U of A, I have some strong opinions about the practice facilities, or lack thereof,” he writes. “My idea would be to purchase 10-20 golf memberships from one of the local private clubs. The private clubs are struggling, so now is the time.
“The kids will have a place to go without having to call ahead, or feel unwelcome. It would be my job to negotiate the terms of the memberships and find the funding to pay the initiation fees and dues. It will be cheaper than creating something from scratch.”
Those who know the game, know Purdy’s name. He has drawn support for the coaching job from the likes of ex-UA baseball player Mike Thorell (now an influential Phoenix banker); Fiesta Bowl founding father Don Meyers; Karl Eller College of Management 2010 Alumnus of the Year, Jon O. Underwood; and, Karl Eller himself, who partnered with Purdy in Tom Hassey’s attempted community bank project in Tucson.
Many Arizona followers would also support the Wildcats keeping the job within the family.
“My wife (Arlene), two kids (Sammy and Andie), and I are natives of Arizona,” Purdy writes. “My wife and I both graduated from U of A, so the red and blue spirit is strong.”
The coaching search can begin in earnest with Arizona’s season coming to an end Saturday when the Wildcats finished in a tie for ninth place at the 2012 NCAA Southwest Regional in Norman, Okla. The top five teams advance to the 2012 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships, May 29-June 3, at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The day culminated the 39-year coaching career for LaRose, including the last 34 seasons as Arizona’s golf coach. He took over the men’s golf head coaching duties in 1978-79.