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QUICK with Ty Willingham


NCGA Golf recently caught up with former Stanford and Notre Dame head football coach Tyrone Willingham. Now that he’s retired from the sidelines, Willingham has been spending more time pursuing his other passion— golf. Along with competing on the NCGA Amateur Tour, the 61-year-old’s playing partners include former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


HOW DID YOU GET INTO GOLF? As a graduate assistant at Michigan State, the assistant coaches all played golf. They suggested I pick up the game and that it could aid my coaching career, or at worst, at least have a new experi- ence with golf. So in trying my hand, I recorded a 14 on my first hole, and the game was on. Now 40 years later, I’ve become marginally better, and still get excited about playing a round. Golf affords the opportunity to get to know your playing partners over the course of four hours or less.


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HOW OFTEN ARE YOU PLAYING IN NCGA EVENTS? I attempt to qualify for the Senior Champion- ship and maybe two other events during the year. I have not been as successful as I would like, but there is still hope.


ARE THE MEMORIES FROM THE GREAT 1999 SEASON AT STANFORD STILL FRESH? Yes and No. I remember the accomplishments of the team and so many of the outstanding young men and coaches that made the championship season. But, the no is what is fresh on my mind. The loss to Wisconsin will always be fresh because you constantly relive the days and plays that could have made a difference and given us victory.


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DO YOU APPLY YOUR COACHING SKILLS TO YOURSELF WHEN ON THE GOLF COURSE? Yes. Coaching should not be what you give to someone else. It should be a lifestyle in which your example says more than your words. When your actions and words are in con- cert, you not only coach, but also lead. Golf requires such a strong mental approach, and understanding this aspect as a coach has real benefits for me in my golf game.


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HOW TOUGH IS THE SCRUTINY ONE GETS AS HEAD COACH AT NOTRE DAME? Notre Dame was truly a great opportunity, and one of America’s great football traditions. I said some- thing along these lines when I accepted the job, “It does not matter how bright the light when you’re doing what’s right. But if you’re doing what’s wrong, it only takes a flashlight.” I believe my focus has been, family, football,


golf and God most places I’ve traveled.


Not always in that order. Giving value to family, God and golf allowed me to bal- ance the scrutiny of football.


WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF SYSTEM? It would be self-serving for me to congratulate the committee for a job well done being a member of the committee. Yet, I think the first year went well and gave football fans an opportu- nity to see a championship decided on the field. It was great to see how every game played had some impact on how the regular season played out, and shaped the four teams that made it to the championship. + + +


WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT GOLF? I love everything about golf. If one walks, pushes or carries a bag it can be a good workout. If one has a string of bird- ies or bogeys the mental and emotional discipline required to stay or get on track is chal- lenging. The opportunity to spend quality time with others or with your self in beautiful surroundings is unmatched. The life lessons that deal with respect, honesty, sportsman- ship and courtesy are precious and present themselves each round. The required ability to go in and out of focus in such short bursts over a prolonged period of time is unique. + + +


WHAT’S A COURSE THAT YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED THAT’S STILL ON YOUR WISH LIST? I’ve been fortunate to play a few of the Top 100 Courses in America, but I do not have a bucket list of courses. My wish list is to one day become the very best player that I can be- come. And there lies the love of the game. That each day one can strive for the unattain- able, and realize it is unattain- able, yet love the pursuit. –Jerry Stewart


SUMMER 2015 / NCGA.ORG / 19


PHOTO: AP


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