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Former BYU golf coach Tucker dies

Karl Tucker
Karl Tucker
Provided by BYU Athletics

OREM — College Hall of Fame golf coach Karl Tucker, who built BYU's program into a national power, died Friday afternoon at his home with his children and wife Joann bedside.

Tucker, 82, had battled complications stemming from congestive heart failure this past year. Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced by the family.

"He is a legend and he left a past and legacy we'll all honor," said Gary Golightly, a close friend and former executive director of the Provo Open.

Tucker, who once said he was the luckiest man alive, coached BYU's golf team to an NCAA championship in 1981 and loved to ski, golf and ride his horses. A dedicated ski instructor, he served two decades as chairman of the Provo Open and created a charity to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Utah County.

Tucker, late USC golf coach Stan Wood, Dave Williams of the University of Houston and Jess Haddock of Wake Forest are recognized as the founding fathers of modern collegiate golf, according to USCTrojans.com.

BYU hired Tucker to pilot its golf program in 1961. And from 1966, when Johnny Miller and Mike Taylor earned All-American honors, until his retirement in 1993, Tucker's players earned more than 60 All-America citations.

From 1969 through 1991, two years before Tucker retired as BYU's golf coach, his teams won 19 conference championships and had 17 Top 10 finishes in the NCAA Golf Championships.

Golfers who came through his program include a myriad of All-Americans including Mike Reid, Keith Clearwater, golf designer John Fought, former Masters champion Mike Weir, Dick Zokol, Keith Clearwater, Pat McGowan and TV golf analyst Bobby Clampett, who was the college player of the year in 1980.

"We are all saddened by the news," Fought said. "He was a great leader and friend to all of us — his former players. He was a lot more than just a coach. He was an inspiration and the firmest of foundations. He led with class and guided us through the years.

"His legacy is all the memories we have of the great times we spent together playing golf, but mostly I will remember and cherish his advice to a rather immature boy from Portland, Oregon. He gave us all so much and we will miss him."

"I would just say that coach's legacy was obviously first, his undying love for Joann," Clearwater said. "But second was a very unique and unmatched loyalty to his players that spanned some 40 years. Every coach at BYU tries to emulate his program and relationship with players. That legacy will never end."

Most of Tucker's former players, including Clampett — who had never returned to Provo — attended Cougar Day this past fall at Riverside Country Club in Provo, knowing the event might be the final opportunity to visit with their former coach.

After an emotional dinner the night before the event, associate BYU athletic director Brian Santiago said the event was "all-time," seeing all that golf talent saluting their coach and trading stories.

"The only thing bigger than Karl's smile was his heart," said Fairways Magazine publisher Randy Dodson. "I learned many things from him, none of which had to do with golf, although he tried to fix my swing many times. I have a great admiration for his ability to treat all people, regardless of their position in life, the same. I will miss his friendship."

e-mail: dharmon@desnews.com