Scores achieved on the golf course aren't the most important thing for Bob Cooley. For him, it's about players getting an education and maturing in their four years in Athens.
For Cooley, the director of golf and head men's golf coach, it's part of his job as coach to make his players better — in all facets of life. It's what players' parents want when they drop their sons off in Athens, and it's what he wants too.
Most important for Cooley is ensuring everyone graduates. He said only three or four people that were on any type of scholarship did not finish their education in his 30 years as coach.
But Dec. 6, Cooley announced that he would retire from his role at the end of the season because of health reasons.
“I’ve enjoyed it, and now I’ve gotten to the point (with) some health issues, and I just think it’s just time,” Cooley said. “Plus, I want to spend more time with (my wife).”
The Athens native will end his career after 30 years in charge of his alma mater's golf team.
Most golfers who compete at the college level dominated their region growing up. That can change at the college level; for some golfers, that means learning to lose has to be taught.
“You're not going to win every time, but you know somebody beats you, you see the guys on the tour shake hands after they get done," Cooley said. "They take their hats off, you know, that type of things. Just part of maturing."
Ohio has not reached the success, though, that Cooley had when he was on the team as a player. In his three years as a player, Cooley was part of two Mid-American Conference Championship teams.
Cooley was a good player in his own right. He competed in nine tournaments on the Canadian professional tour in 1973. He was then reinstated to the amateur ranks in the U.S., competing in different events that culminated in his playing in the US Amateur Championships in 1978 and 1980.
Cooley's professional experience helped him give advice to all of his golfers over the years, though the basics stay the same.
“I feel like I've gotten better from listening to him at practice and at tournaments and how he thinks around the golf course,” junior Ben Sattler said.
With Kent State sitting atop the conference almost every year, the closest Ohio came to winning the title were second-place finishes in 2002 and 2004. Cooley won MAC Coach of the Year in 2002.
Even though it's not the main goal for Cooley, he has developed players who have gone on to compete at the professional level.
Erik Herberth was part of the 2002 team; after graduating, he competed in tournaments for five years, including two Nationwide Tour events.
Perhaps saving the best for last, Peyton White and Ty Herriott, both 2017 graduates, are playing professionally. White is in Latin America; Herriott is in Canada.
Like Herriott and White, each golfer is slightly different in how he wants to be coached, both on the course and off. So Cooley must alter how he approaches a player while keeping the same general idea.
“I just think that was just his mentality,” White said. "If one thing's not going right, then there's got to be a way to do it."
Cooley didn’t try to make major changes to anyone’s swing and instead just helped them play better under pressure in tournaments.
When Herberth arrived on campus, it took some time to get used to Cooley’s personality. Herberth said Cooley would sometimes say things the golfers didn’t like, but it was only because he cared about them.
Herberth and Cooley's friendship grew over the five years Herberth spent on the team. By the end, Herberth claims they had caught more bass while fishing than they had made birdies.
That relationship between Cooley and his players begins based on golf, but it's more than that — it evolves over the course of their time in Athens.
“He was just someone (where) if you ever needed to talk, he was there, so he was just a really good coach and an even better person," White said.