There have been some notable figures in the early years of Arkansas golf like Miller Barber and R. H. Sikes. Both did some good on the PGA Tour after playing for the Razorbacks.
But if you want to thank someone for the surge in modern day golf in Arkansas, the place to start would be with Steve Loy, now most notable for managing the career of Phil Mickelson.
Loy doesn't want thanks. He said to direct it to Frank Broyles. Arkansas golf, like most everything else, has roots with Broyles.
Arkansas had not done anything at the NCAA tournament since Sikes won the individual title in 1963 when Broyles hired Loy from Scottsdale Community College in 1984. Those four years with Loy at the helm changed Arkansas golf. The Hogs never broke through with a SWC title. They finished second four straight years under Loy, but they were almost immediately back on the national scene with four top 20 finishes at the NCAA.
"That's after not even qualifying," said one long-time UA golf observer. "To say Loy brought college golf to Arkansas would be right."
That's why I noticed last week when Loy took a break from working with Mickelson at one of the big times in their career (and "their career" is the right word) to spend two days in Fayetteville as part of the Coach's Quarter events to celebrate Broyles.
Loy joined some old friends in the golf outing Friday, then attended the dinner Saturday night. He headed to Pinehurst for the U.S. Open this week where Mickelson will try to break through for the only Grand Slam title not on his resume.
Loy coached Scottsdale Community College to two national titles before Broyles hired him to resurrect the UA golf program. He was close enough to Broyles some thought Loy was being groomed as his replacement. But, he went home to take Arizona State to the top of the college golf world, partly through the recruitment of Mickelson.
In a brilliant move for both, Mickelson talked him into being his agent as he hit the PGA Tour. Loy has negotiated wonderful contracts for both and now has 15 of the top Tour pros under contract, including former world No. 1 Luke Donald. Mickelson and Loy own five golf courses in the Phoenix area.
Loy's players during his four years at Arkansas included Mike Swartz, John Daly, Tim Crockett, Chris Little and Petey King. A former football player and oil field worker, Loy was an obvious taskmaster. His players were sometimes fearful.
One of his former UA players said that Loy was a perfectionist who was thorough in how courses would be managed. If he said to stay away from a certain side of the green or a fairway, there would be a price to pay for a mistake in that direction.
There was a practice round at a big event where a star hit it into a trouble spot off the tee that was to be avoided at all costs. Loy was 400 yards ahead at the green, but had a view of the player. To keep Loy from knowing, the player walked down the center of the fairway until Loy turned away before the player then cut a path to his tee shot.
Loy smiled when he was asked about the possibility of following as AD after Broyles. He said he knew he didn't want to wait that long.
"I didn't think he would ever retire, ever," Loy said. "No one did."
Loy said he learned so much from Broyles, including a stern lecture almost immediately after coming to campus.
"I was probably negligent in how I handled a couple of things right after I got here," Loy said. "He called me in and I will never forget. I thought I was his coach, but what he wanted to tell me is that I was more than that, an ambassador for the University of Arkansas and the state of Arkansas and I better never embarrass either.
"He became my father and my mentor for life, like he did for so many others who came through here. I could never call him Frank, only Coach Broyles. He's still Coach Broyles to me, because I have that much respect for what he's done at Arkansas and for college athletics."
Just as he said that, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones popped into the Paradise Valley club house.
"That man doesn't just show up for anyone," Loy said. "That relationship shines through as coach and player like so many others who have been through here in 56 years under Coach Broyles.
"What I am worried about is that not everyone at the University still embraces that. It's 56 years of what everyone else in college athletics wishes they had. They can't create that again. No one can. It's what Frank Broyles did here, Tom Osborne did at Nebraska and Darrell Royal did at Texas. It won't be done ever again, not here, not anywhere.
"I just hope that no one here ever takes his legacy for granted. I'm afraid that it could be all gone at some point and that will be shameful. It will be evident some day. I say that hoping that I don't disrespect anyone here now.
"I just don't think anyone can redo this. That's why as long as they have events like this to celebrate Coach Broyles, I'll be here."
Loy loves his times with Broyles and family at Augusta National every April as Mickelson tries to add another Masters title.
"That's when I knew about this event and I wasn't going to miss it," Loy said. "I will say this about Coach Broyles and my time with him, I so much enjoy telling people that I worked for Coach Broyles. That's all you have to say. You don't even have to say at Arkansas. Everyone in the country knows.
"There doesn't need to be an explanation in the world of college athletics about who he is, where he was or what he did. They all know.
"He made my career, he's in my foot print. He made my life. He's the best that's ever been."
Well, that's what he says about Mickelson, too, and Mickelson about Loy. And, they should, since Mickelson has made over $75 million on the PGA Tour, sometimes with Loy toting the bag. But that's just the tip of the ice berg. Loy has negotiated annual endorsements in the $45 million range, now tops in golf with the slide by Tiger Woods.
So when you see Mickelson this week as he tries to end his streak of seconds at the U.S. Open, think Steve Loy and Razorback golf. It should be good thoughts.
State of the Hogs: Steve Loy
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