Dave Williams: The Father of College Golf
“All I’ve ever tried to do besides win is raise college golf to a higher level of appreciation. I wanted us to be recognized as athletes, because that’s what we are.” – Dave Williams
Former UH golf coach Dave Williams is considered the “Father of College Golf.” And for good reason: his teams won:
- 16 national titles.
- 14 conference titles.
- 340 tournaments, and he coached
- 41 All-Americans.
Dave Williams’ resume as the University of Houston golf coach is literally unmatched in all of sports.
“”I wouldn’t have gone to Houston if it weren’t for Dave Williams. He was a great coach and a legend. He was college golf.” – Fred Couples
After only four seasons with Williams in charge, the Coogs won their first national championship in 1956. And then again in 1957. And then again in ’58, ’59 and ’60. In a stretch of 17 years, UH finished 1st or 2nd in the nation a record 16 times. Coach Dave had made Houston the powerhouse in collegiate golf.
Changing The Sport
The 16 national titles are the most by any collegiate coach in any sport. But “the father of college golf” did not just set all of the records for golf; he reinvented the entire sport.
When Coach Williams took over, college golf teams played dual matches using match-play format. In 1955, Houston hosted the All-American Intercollegiate Invitational (AAII), and Williams experimented with a stroke-play tournament format in which he could play several opponents at one time. Williams saw it as a logical step that would allow for more fierce competition.
Soon, all of college golf was using Williams’ format, including every major conference and the NCAAs. Today, most high school and junior colleges across the nation use Williams’ format, not even knowing that another one ever existed.
Besides the team titles, Dave Williams coached 8 Cougars to an individual national championship. And his former players have amassed 13 major titles – with at least one winning each of the four.
”He convinced me to leave Australia when I was 18 years old, and I owe my start in America to him. That’s the kind of influence he had on people.” – Steve Elkington
Among his players:
- Fred Couples won the 1992 Masters.
- Steve Elkington – still an active supporter of UH golf & the 1995 P.G.A. Championship winner.
- Fuzzy Zoeller is the only man ever to win the Masters in his first trip, in 1979. Zoeller also won the U.S. Open five years later in 1984.
- Billy Ray Brown was the first-ever freshman to win the NCAA individual title in 1982.
- Nick Faldo – 3 Masters Tournaments and 3 British Opens.
- John Mahaffey was the 1978 P.G.A. champion.
- Keith Fergus was a 3-time All-American and won 19 individual titles in college.
- Bill Rogers – 1981 British Open champion.
The Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) give the Dave Williams Award to the national coach of the year. Coach Dave was the first inductee to the GCAA Hall of Fame in 1980 and was the first-ever winner of their Honor Award for his “significant contributions to the game of golf.”