Legendary retired Wake Forest golf coach Jesse Haddock passed away on Wednesday morning at age 91. Considered one of college golf’s greatest coaches, Haddock led the Demon Deacons from 1960 to 1992 and his teams won three national championships and 15 ACC championships, including a record 10 in a row (1967-76).
He coached 63 All-Americans and, in 1976, headed what is considered to be among the greatest college teams of all time, led by Curtis Strange, Jay Haas and Scott Hoch.
“He cared about you as an individual first and a golfer second,” said Strange, when asked what made Haddock special. “He was the last of the old-timers. We all needed a little discipline in college and he provided that without being overbearing. He let us be students. Coach was an amateur psychologist who knew how and when to talk to you.”
Haddock wasn’t much of a player, which was good for most of the golfers he recruited. They never worried about their coach meddling with their swings; instead, they got someone who supported and mentored them.
“He wanted you to come by his office and talk to him every day,” said Billy Andrade (class of ’86). “It was never anything technical. But by the time I finished talking to him, I was running out of there to go practice. It was some of the best motivational talks I’ve ever had.”
RIP Coach Jesse Haddock, who led our program to the 1974, 1975 and 1986 NCAA Championships
— Wake Men’s Golf (@WakeMGolf) March 14, 2018
Haddock would often do more by saying less. “In the 1986 NCAA Championship, which Wake Forest hosted, we played terrible the third day,” Andrade said. “So, after the round, coach pulled me aside and said, ‘Take everybody out to dinner. It’s over. Nothing you can do about today. Just go have a nice dinner and we’ll get together for breakfast in the morning.’ We had a great dinner where we just laughed about how bad we’d played and really relaxed and got ready. We entered that final day 16 shots back and won by four, the largest comeback in NCAA history. That’s the kind of coach Coach Haddock was.”
“With me, he gave me an opportunity to go to Wake and play with three or four of the best players in the country,” Strange said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Coach Haddock. And he stayed a dear friend. I went to him for advice several times after I left school. He impacted my life a great deal.”
It seemed fitting Haddock would pass away the Wednesday of Arnold Palmer Invitational week. Palmer, who was winning the Masters and U.S. Open during Haddock’s first year as head coach at Wake Forest, was the Demon Deacons’ most famous alumnus. Haddock used the Palmer connection to recruit some of the finest players in the game, including Andrade, Gary Hallberg, Jay Sigel, Len Mattiace, Jim Simons and Haas’ brother, Jerry, the current head coach at Wake Forest.
Many of those players became de facto recruiting agents for Haddock. For example, Lanny Wadkins played in the Heritage Classic on Hilton Head while attending Wake. He was paired with Bob Goalby who immediately called his nephew, Jay Haas, a junior in high school at the time. Goalby said, “If Wake Forest is producing players like that, you need to go there.”
“Jerry Haas recruited me,” Andrade said. “He was still playing junior golf as a freshman at Wake because he was a young freshman. We played some junior events and he said, ‘Where are you going?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know but Wake’s definitely on the list.’ The next thing I know Coach (Haddock) is reaching out to me in Rhode Island.”
“On the East Coast, if you could play golf, Wake Forest was where you needed to go,” Strange said. “(Haddock) was a big part of that.”
Haddock, who was born in Pitt County, N.C., on Jan. 21, 1927, was a member of the College Golf Coaches Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame. The $4.5 million golf house at Wake Forest, where the men’s and women’s teams practice and which showcases the program’s history, is called Haddock House.
“A lot of kids today don’t have a great college experience because they don’t have a great coach,” Andrade said. “I had the greatest coach in history. I don’t ever take for granted how lucky I was in that respect.”
Haddock’s wife of 61 years, Kay, was by his side when he passed away at a local hospice facility, where he spent the last three weeks of his life.