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Winning golf coach’s retirement marks end of era

By : John Hartrick

Coach Affleck, right, works with student golfer Jason Bowie ’98. Affleck is finishing 40 years of coaching this spring.
After 40 years, 69 tournament titles and hundreds of friendships, head varsity golf coach John Affleck will retire after the spring season. This could be said to be a good thing. After all, if he were forced to cram any more team trophies and personal awards into his 9 by 11 foot office, there might be no room left for his desk, much less for him.

No other coach in the history of the University has achieved the kind of sweeping success Affleck has — particularly in his past 15 years as head varsity golf coach — and this past season was no different. As if sensing the significance and finality of the 2002-03 year, Affleck’s team played with remarkable consistency and unparalleled achievement.

Led by senior captain Adam Fuchs, BU won more tournaments (seven) than any Division I team in the nation and will tee it up with the nation’s elite May 15-17 at the NCAA East Regional, held in Auburn, Ala. The NCAA selection — the program’s ninth in the last 12 years under Affleck’s tutelage — came on the heels of a near-perfect spring. In a three-week span, the Bearcats topped region rivals Yale, Rhode Island and Hartford to force their way into a crowded NCAA tournament field in what is only Binghamton’s second year of eligibility.

But to know John Affleck is to realize that while the wins and successes are important, the relationships forged and the journey taken are equally important. And that’s why more than 100 former players and their parents gathered at En-Joie Golf Course in early May to renew friendships and pay tribute to their coach. They feel connected. Family is paramount to Affleck, who has raised seven children with his wife, Pat, and can add nearly a hundred more “sons” to the family tree.

Jason Bowie ’98 said it best when he spoke at the alumni gathering: “Coach, we are, and will always be, your ‘boys.’”

Affleck’s impact on college students hasn’t been limited to athletes, however. A Chancellor’s Award winner for teaching excellence, Affleck believes strongly in the value of education. His physical education classes are enormously popular, and he has maintained relationships with those alumni as well. His interactive style creates a lively and entertaining environment that is both fun and educational. With a big smile and hearty laugh always at the ready, Affleck is easily one of the most recognizable figures around the West Gym, if not the campus.

“I view education as a defining process,” Affleck said. “I have always considered coaching as glorified teaching. Being called coach, teacher or professor means a great deal to me.”

In addition to his impact on BU students, his influence on the department’s relatively young coaching staff has been significant.

“I’ve learned so many things from John in my tenure here,” said head men’s tennis coach Michael Starke. “He is the complete package. John’s charismatic, he has incredible leadership skills, he’s driven more than anyone would realize and he’s a winner. But the way he cares about his kids and everyone he interacts with in a genuine and positive way is what separates him from so many other coaches.”

He’s also been cited for his strong sense of integrity and academic achievement, and for players who carry themselves with a sense of pride and professionalism. Whether the team is working with youngsters at a grade-school clinic or traveling across the country for competition, Affleck’s squads are some of the University’s finest ambassadors. And it doesn’t hurt that they win tournaments — a lot.

“I have always enjoyed the pressure of competition,” Affleck said. “And I know I will miss the natural rush and excitement that competition provided. But I’m going to miss most the close relationships shared with the athletes, coaches, parents and friends.”

That two-way street is paved with people who will miss Affleck, his friendship, his competitive fire and his human compassion.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08