Jim Hanny, not much taller than a 3-wood, usually wears a wide-brimmed straw hat as he walks the fairways.
That's his thing, walking. He's always looking — for the next prospect, for the next good shot, for the next title. While other coaches are vacationing during summer or lounging in the clubhouse, they don't realize Hanny is beating them at that moment.
Because he's chasing his next Cal State Stanislaus star down some 420-yard par 4.
"There's a difference between interest and commitment," Hanny likes to say. "When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results."
The only man who possesses more commitment than Hanny, 83, is Father Time. Stanislaus' first coach, the original Warrior and longtime athletic director, will step down as golf coach this spring at the end of his 36th season. He figures he's spent about 20 years of his retirement chasing another championship at Stanislaus, but that wasn't time lost.
Check out the results. Check out the man. Check out the legacy.
Ask him about the 12 Division III national championships won by his Warriors between 1976 and '89 — one of the great runs of excellence in NCAA history — and Hanny scoffs.
"My greatest feat was surviving," he says. "I don't claim those (titles). Players do that. I don't."
Then again, Hanny pulled together that talent. He found players in rural Iowa. He found them on practice ranges in Sacramento. He found them a half-mile from the Stanislaus campus.
Year after year, Hanny was there — the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, the Modesto City, the State Fair at Sacramento and countless other events. Somehow and some way, he attracted Division I talent to a non-Division I school.
"I'm playing at the national junior college championship in Scottsdale. It's about 117 degrees, and there's this guy I've never seen and he's following me hole after hole," Brad Long remembered. "I finish 17th overall. He introduces himself after the round, and he calls me all summer long. I'm thinking, 'This guy is pretty passionate.' I'd never heard of Stanislaus, but all of a sudden I'm thinking that going to a place with good weather and 12 national championships would be all right."
And that's how Long, an eventual All-American, found his way from Illinois to Turlock. His story probably coincides with those of Iowa products Mike Bender and Doug Dunakey, who both reached the PGA Tour. Or local products like Ken Webb and Ryan Thornberry. Or Cliff Smith, Dean Kain, Shawn McEntee and the more than 20 All-Americans lured by Hanny to Stanislaus.
"Jim would scout the junior colleges and land the kids the Division I schools wouldn't go after because they'd be eligible for only two years," Bender said. "He got me from Iowa and then I'd go home during the summer and tell everyone about how good it was out there, and that started his connection to Iowa. The out-of-state guys could go to Stanislaus for one year and establish residency, and the tuition then would drop big-time. Jim knew that."
All also learned to cope with Hanny's style — tough, no-nonsense, results-oriented. Not much of a player himself, the coach motivated his team by setting the bar high and insisting his players clear it.
Before each season, Hanny put the Warriors through exhausting qualifiers, some of them more than 15 rounds. Each player, from the returning All-American to the incoming freshman, faced the same truth: The lowest five scorers made the traveling team. And if one or more slipped after a few tournaments, there would be more qualifiers.
"You had to post a score every day at practice, and Hanny would be out there, walking with you," Long said. "He always made sure he had his best five players when they went to the nationals. One day at Chico, I shot 42-40. I went right into qualifying."
It's old-school, all right, but Hanny points to the plaques — all those championships — and wins every argument. There are reasons, good ones, why he's been inducted into five halls of fame.
"We won a lot, and that draws athletes to your program," he said. "My interest was to have good athletes to pay the price and be a champion. I loved the players I coached. I'm sure to some of them I was the meanest guy in the world. I am a disciplined guy, and they accepted that and that's what makes a winner."
Hanny says he's retiring because he owes some travel time to his wife, Doris, and, after all these years, he's just tired. I don't buy it. I think the man in the straw hat, thousands of miles from home, will gravitate to the closest golf club and scout the line on the range.
"Excuse me," he'll say to a sweet-swinging upstart. "Have you heard of Cal State Stanislaus?"
HOLES-IN-ONE — Sharon Kuharski, Modesto, 103-yard 13th at River Oaks, Ceres, 5-wood. Phil Donaldson, Ceres, 13th at River Oaks, sand wedge. Jim Perez, Modesto, 177-yard 12th at Oakdale CC, 6-iron. Shane O'Brien, Turlock, 195-yard ninth at Lake Don Pedro, 5-iron. Robbie Trindade, Hilmar, 148-yard fourth at Stevinson Ranch, 7-iron. Bob Phillips, Los Banos, 112-yard 12th at Stevinson Ranch, 7-iron.
Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302.