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Golf: Bass served UL golf program well

When UL’s golf team plays in its own Louisiana Classics tournament today through Tuesday, it’ll be in a host role for the final time under coach Bob Bass.

The 18-year Cajun mentor informed his team Saturday night that he will step down on June 30, less than a month shy of his 68th birthday, to spend more time with family and in an attempt to have an impact with junior golf in the state. He made the announcement at the team’s annual Saturday night gathering prior to the Classics, one that draws many of the players’ families.

"My two favorite things in the world are competitive golf and young people," Bass said. "I’m just retiring from the UL position. I’m still going to have a lot of interests in collegiate golf and in helping our junior programs become better."

If track record is any indication, those programs figure to get a big boost. Bass-coached UL teams have made nine of the school’s 12 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances and can count four conference titles among 19 team tournament victories – two of those titles, including last spring’s Sun Belt Conference crown, in the last 10 months.

Add 30 all-conference players and 32 All-Louisiana selections to that resume, one highlighted by his selection as coach on the Sun Belt’s All-Time Team announced in 2006 as part of the league’s 30th anniversary celebration. He’s just as proud, if not moreso, of the 11 Academic All-Americans he’s coached.

That’s just while Bass was head coach … the numbers don’t include his outside involvement with the program in four different decades before then-athletic director Nelson Stokley asked him to "temporarily" fill a position in 1991.

"I appreciate Nelson talking me into doing this," said Bass, whose father Bill served as the Cajuns’ golf coach in two different stints along with service as the university’s alumni director. "Nelson and my dad had played football together at LSU and we knew each other pretty well, and he talked me into helping out on an interim basis."

The Cajuns won their third straight American South Conference title that year and Bass was named the league’s Coach of the Year – becoming the only father-son combination in UL history to each earn conference and Louisiana Coach of the Year honors.

"That meant a lot to me," Bass said. "My dad loved the school so much and was so involved with golf."

Bass graduated from then-USL in 1965 and had a career in international banking and operated a successful travel agency – one that wife Linda has tended since Bass got that phone call in 1991.

"There were several things I wanted to do in the program," he said. "The one thing is that I was going to leave things a lot better than I got them and we’ve done that, and the athletic department’s stepped up and is going to back the spring sports even more now. Golf will benefit from that, and I feel good about that. We have the foundation in place for bigger and better things if we continue to work at it."

Bass has also helped stabilize the program’s financial status. UL’s golf foundation accounts, including the Bill Bass Endowed Scholarship, totaled around $30,000 when he took over the program. Those accounts are now around $200,000 and have rarely been touched in his 18 years, allowing them to mature.

He’s also continued the program’s success with Louisiana players, with six on UL’s current roster. In fact, three of those – Lafayette products Michael Smith, Morgan Landry and B.C. Thibeaux III – all signed as a group in 2004 and have been a factor in postponing Saturday’s announcement for a few years.

"I was 64 when they signed," Bass said. "They’ve been with me for this long. I was getting ready to do this last year, but David (UL athletic director David Walker) asked me to stay on for at least one more year. That was right before we went and won the conference title and went to the NCAA’s.

"We’ve always had an anchor with Louisiana kids, and that’s something I’m proud of. We’ve probably had more success with Louisiana kids than any program in the state. That’s what I’m going to miss the most, working with the kids every day … that’s going to be the hardest thing."

Bass said that retirement will provide more time with Linda, the team’s "mom" for 18 years, his five children and a growing number of grandchildren. But he plans to remain active with the Golf Coaches Association of America as one of the chairs of the Palmer Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event named after the legendary Arnold Palmer and matching U.S. and European collegiate golfers annually. He also plans to become more involved with the state’s youth programs.

"Junior golf in Louisiana is extremely interesting to me," he said. "I want to find ways to improve everything about it and help our state’s juniors become better. Golf is so much about life … it teaches so many life values, and that’s so important for them."

 

Daily Advertiser, March 9, 2008