New Role For Burk At Nationals
The NJCAA Division III National Golf Tournament was held at Chautauqua Golf Club this week for the 12th time, but there was something different about it for Bill Burk.
For the previous 11 tournaments, he was the coach of the host Jamestown Community College Jayhawks. However, this year he ended his golf coaching career and turned things over to Ben Lindquist.
Former Jamestown Community College golf coach Bill Burk helps out with scoring at this year’s NJCAA Division III National Tournament.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
And Burk, who is still JCC's athletic director, knows the decision was timed correctly.
''I know that because I'm not chomping at the bit to be out there,'' he said. ''I feel like I've done some pretty good work with the program and I'm fine turning it over to Ben.''
The highlight for the JCC golf coach since 2000 is that you knew you will always be coaching your team in the NJCAA Division III Tournament because the Jayhawks automatically qualify as the host team. But this year, Burk is mainly there as a spectator and is also helping out at the scoring table and spotting.
''But I love being around the tournament,'' he said. ''I'm glad I can still come up and be a part of it.''
But not being a coach is quite a change.
''It's been different,'' Burk said. ''I try to think about what I've been missing from it and it's being around the kids. Being around the players, having breakfast with them, getting them ready.''
Now Lindquist is experiencing that.
''When I pull in the parking lot and he's giving them their pep talk and he's giving them their golf balls and I know they've sat down to dinner and had laughs and looked at the paper and looked at their pictures there, I miss that,'' Burk said.
But there are quite a few things he doesn't miss.
''I don't miss walking the course with them and the nerves and watching scores come in,'' Burk said. '' Honestly feeling helpless. By now they're on their own. By this time of the tournament you're not doing much (as a coach). The helplessness, I do not miss that.''
He added, ''I watch Ben come around now (after the first nine holes) and I see the face he makes. He's frustrated with their nine-hole scores and that's when I think, 'I'm glad that's not me.'''
At the nationals, things have been pretty much warm and dry. But when the season began in March that was not the case. It was cold and wet and it continued into May causing postponements and cancellations.
''The spring was so bad,'' Burk said. ''What a grind to try to coach this spring. I did not miss that.''
The highlight of Burk's coaching career was in his third year when JCC first hosted the nationals and won to claim JCC's first and only national championship.
After three rounds, JCC was in second place, five shots behind first-place Monroe CC. But after the final round the Jayhawks had defeated Monroe by 10 shots.
''I think we caught the field right, I think we caught the tournament right,'' Burk said. ''Their were years that some of those teams Monroe brought here, that (2000 JCC) team wasn't going to beat them. But we beat everybody that showed up (in 2000) and that's all you can do.''
And it was a special team.
''I think I got really fortunate having that group of guys,'' Burk said about 2000 team members Joe Traniello, Tony Bisignano Jr., Pete Scheira, Jason Anderson and Matt Bird.
Interestingly, JCC had never won the NJCAA Region 3 Division III title, but suddenly it had a national championship. However, in 2001, the Jayhawks did win the regionals to ''earn'' their spot in the nationals. But that team finished fifth and that's the highest finish for a JCC team since.
''Actually I thought we were going to win a couple of these (national titles) was what it felt like at the time because the next year we won our regional,'' Burk recalled. ''We'd never done that either. So we came into that next tournament and the field flopped on us pretty fast. I think we finished fifth that year and I think that has probably been our highest since then. So it's a real credit to that year we were able to do it. You don't realize when you're doing it how special it is. I sure do now.''
What is ironic is that the sport Burk is most familiar with is basketball. He was Southwestern's all-time leading scorer for quite a few years after graduation and he went on play at Grove City College where the team finished third in the NCAA Division III National Tournament during one of his seasons. He was also an assistant coach for Mike Cordovano's men's team for a few seasons and one included the Jayhawks' only trip to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament, but they didn't come home a winner.
Then in his third year of coaching golf he had a national title.
''It's a different sport,'' Burk said about golf. ''I was in awe of how different a sport it is. There are things you can do in basketball that you can't do in this sport. The harder you try in this sport, the harder you press on someone, the worse they play.''
He added, ''The thing I learned early about coaching this sport was that I didn't know anything about it. I knew when to get help, I knew how to get help. I think that helped me be more perceptive of learning the game and learning how to coach it. Teaching kids how to manage a golf course, preparation and stuff like that. I was learning it as they were.''
After that fifth-place finish at the nationals in 2001, JCC has been mostly in the middle of the pack. A major highlight since then was the play of Andy Frank in 2006 and 2007, when he finished 12th and then fourth in the individual scores to earn NJCAA All-American status.
''Having a two-time all-American, what a great experience,'' Burk said.
Now he can have experiences different from being a coach. And he's surprised more people don't join him.
''It's difficult to express to people who haven't been up here what a fantastic event this is,'' he said. ''Colleges from all over the country are here. Kids played today in 90-degree heat and they're now sitting in our lake, living in a condo. Their parents are meeting them out for dinner. Then they're going to get in their planes and their buses and go back to Minnesota and Delaware and South Carolina and Georgia.''
And in addition to playing golf or watching golf, Burk pointed out, ''And they're spending money. And they're not going to McDonald's and they're not living in someone's house. They're all living in condos and hotel rooms, and their parents are living in condos and hotel rooms, and they're renting vehicles.''
The NJCAA Division III National Golf Tournament is quite a economic boost for Chautauqua County. But for Burk, it has provided plenty of deposits into his memory bank.