Richard Sykes, longtime men's golf coach for North Carolina State University, will be retiring at the end of the season after 46 years coaching the Wolfpack.
Sykes, who was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame in 2001, is a four-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year. He led NC State to its first ACC Championship in 1990 and has coached the team to 23 NCAA Regionals and 12 NCAA Championships. He has also coached six individual ACC Champions, two ACC Players of the Year, 34 All-Americans, and one NCAA Champion and Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award presented by Barbasol recipient in Matt Hill.
We asked Coach Sykes to share with us some of his most fond memories from the past 46 years at the ACC Championship at Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton, South Carolina.
Next week you will head to your 46th ACC Championship as a head coach. You have had many special teams and special players over the years with NC State. Take us through some of those special memories from tournaments or players that will stick with you.
It was my second year, second ACC tournament, Wake Forest had won about five ACC Championships in a row and went on to win about five or six more ACC Championships. The year before, which was my first year, we had finished last by 110 strokes, we had a few new recruits and had improved a little.
At the ACC that year, we were in fourth place going into the last round, and we were paired with Wake Forest (in foursomes). We already knew no one was going to beat Wake Forest, so everyone was playing for second place.
At the end of the round, the last players were coming down 18, one of my players went out and asked his teammate how he stood for that round, he turned around and came back running to where all the players were standing hollering, "We won! We won!" It was a thrilling moment to have made such a big jump in one year. I got that second-place trophy and held onto it for several days before turning it in to the school.
Do you have any funny stories from past tourneys or strange things that might have a happened at the ACC Championship?
At the ACC Championship early on, we used to play Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday tournaments. We were more of a bother than money coming into the golf course. We made the turn and had to wait 1.5 hours for a group of Canadians that were there on a golf package before we could start the second nine holes.
Another year, we were playing and before we could finish the round, the club started aerifying the greens so we had to play with freshly aerified greens.
Is there any one single shot that you will never forget and who hit it? What was the situation?
Tee shot by Matt Hill on the next-to-the-last hole in the 2009 NCAA Championship. His opponent Kyle Stanley had just pulled within one shot on the last hole and proceeded to hit a big drive over a fairway bunker to set up an easy birdie opportunity.
Matt's tee shot cleared the same bunker — which he had not been able to do all week — to set up an easy birdie opportunity, of which Matt made and Kyle did not. Matt went to the last hole with a two-stroke lead and won the championship.
As you head into retirement, or the 19th hole, what are some of the things you will miss most about college athletics, college golf, and the university environment?
Obviously, I will miss the players, but they leave each year, so you get used to that. I will miss the coaches, tournament officials and the people that put on each tournament. I will also miss the day-to-day fun in the athletic department.
Along the way, did you ever have any role models in coaching you looked up to or tried to emulate? Over the years who had the greatest effect on your coaching career besides your wife and family?
I have lots of coaching friends, and I have taken things from all of them to try to become successful and to give my players a special experience.
If you had it to do all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
I would try not to get as old as I am as quick as I got there. I do not think I would change anything. I have had the time of my life.
When you walk down that final hole at your final ACC Championship, have you given any thoughts to what will be going through your mind besides "someone make one more putt"?
At each tournament this year, I have taken the time to stop and enjoy the experience. 46 years have gone by so fast, and I am sure as I walk up the last hole, I will be reflecting on all the things that happened over the years. I am sure I will be sad, but I will have a big smile on my face as I have enjoyed every minute of it.
What legacy to do you hope you have left behind at NC State and on college golf as a whole?
Enjoy the game.