|Thursday, May 19, 2016, 9:34 AM- -|
A few weeks ago I played golf with a successful business man and a terrific player. He played golf at Clemson back in the 1980s and still plays at a very high level. He knew I occasionally played with Clemson golf coach and his former college teammate, Larry Penley. He asked, "What do you learn when you play with Larry?"
My answer took a few holes, but I explained I listen to every word Penley says. I can still remember conversations I had with him from several years back. I said I learn more about life than golf. In short, I learn as much from Penley as anyone I have ever met.
Perhaps the biggest lesson is in his people skills. Penley loves his players, and it shows. The Hall of Famer says he doesn't have former players or call them former Tigers. Penley says once a Tiger, always a Tiger. He says you are a Tiger for life.
I also have learned the value of experience. There is nothing he hasn't seen in his field. His experience of how to handle anything is a great asset.
I will admit it hurt to watch some posters on Tigernet complain about Penley in recent years. Some doubted he could win again. Some doubted a team of players mainly from South Carolina could win again. Some said he had lost interest, and the game had passed him by. The personal attacks hurt more than the criticism.
Many of us knew different. I saw Penley recruiting harder than I ever remembered. I saw him on the road more than ever. I saw the fire.
Many of the people I hang out love Clemson with everything they have, but no one loves Clemson more than Larry Penley.
I also knew he wanted to get his program back on top. This year it happened again when Penley helped the Tigers to the ACC title for the ninth time. This time they dominated the field and won by 11 shots.
Yes, the fire to make Clemson great burns inside of Penley every day.
In his 33 years as the head coach here the Tigers have won 68 tournaments including three wins this year.
This month he was named the ACC Coach of the Year for the eighth time. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of those awards is the fact that he won them in four different decades.
No, the game hasn't passed him by. Wednesday we saw evidence of that once again as his Tigers finished third in the NCAA regional in Stillwater, OK to advance to the NCAA Finals in two weeks in Oregon.
Clemson will head west in search of its second national title, and the seventh-ranked Tigers will be looking for their fourth win in their last six events.
I don't mind fair criticism, but some made personal attacks on a man that loves this place. That was hard to watch. I get social media and know this is how things work now. So does Larry Penley. He is a big boy and pays no attention to it. I doubt any of those brave souls that hide behind a screen name and became experts by typing insults on this website have called or written Penley to apologize or to congratulate him. Instead, he is too busy hearing from his supporters that never lost faith, including his former players.
The Brad Hughes All-State Insurance Agency
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