Before Scott Hardy took over the reigns as the St. Mary’s (Calif.) head golf coach prior to the 2002-03 season, the program was in utter disarray. Since then he has helmed the Gaels to a stretch of eight of the most successful seasons in program history culminating in an appearance in the 2008 NCAA D-I championship.
“When I took over, the program had been abandoned a bit,” said Hardy, a 1998 St. Mary’s alum and four-year member of the golf team. “Two of the best players had transferred and the coach quit. They went without a coach for a year and fell apart, really.
“The team was ranked near the bottom of the 300 Division I schools, around 260 to 280, so there was a lot of work to be done.”
The squad rebuilt itself nearly immediately, with recruits lured by the impressive campus, close proximity to a number of top courses and a coach with one of the most impressive playing resumes in Northern California.
Hardy had success stocking his roster with top out-of-state recruits from Utah and the Pacific Northwest, with half of the current roster being non-Californians, including the current No. 1.
Most recently, the Gaels scored one of the biggest tournament victories in school history with a win at the historic Western Intercollegiate (results), held at Pasatiempo. The squad rallied from a 14-stroke deficit on the final day of play to top 23rd ranked Michigan State and UC Irvine by a one. Before Hardy signed on, SMC had never won a tournament.
Despite a demanding schedule, the four-time West Coast Conference coach of the year still has time to work on his game for about an hour-and-a-half per day, usually before the team shows up for 3:30 practice.
That has translated into more than a dozen first-place finishes since 2000.
He calls his 2004 victory at the NCGA Stroke Play Championship(info) his most memorable, because he had his wife caddying for him and because he needed a birdie to on the 18th hole to top a golfer he called “Mr. NCGA” Casey Boyns.
Possibly more impressive than the NCGA and city championship victories he has accumulated has been the stretch of two consecutive semi-final appearances in the U.S. Mid-Amateur (info).
Bowing out so close to the finals and a possible spot in The Masters with a victory brought different emotions each time, first satisfaction, then heartbreak.
“Looking back after the first year I was happy, pleased to have made it so far,” said Hardy. “Last year was very frustrating, extremely disappointing. I played very good golf, was up on Trip Kuehne then let it get away.”
Kuehne birdied the 18th and 19th holes to take the win, and then trounced Dan Whitaker in the finals.
Still, Hardy says he feels he is one of the top Mid-Ams in the country, and is poised to make another run at the title. Meanwhile, his St. Mary’s College squad made it to the NCAA Division I championship for the first time, not bad for a team that was one of the worst in the country seven short years ago.