Clemson golf coach Larry Penley’s announcement this week that he was retiring at the end of the 2021 spring season brought back a lot of memories, not only of the success he has enjoyed as a coach but also his accomplishments as a player.
I’ve known Penley and followed his career since we first crossed paths, attending the same high school in Dallas, N.C. I was several years ahead of him, but when I later took up golf I played most of the time at the same course where his family held a membership.
Penley is in his 38th year coaching the Tigers, the longest tenure by a Clemson head coach in any sport.
During that time, he has led the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament all 36 seasons in which a tournament has been held. Last year’s team finished 14th in the country, the 25th time Penley’s teams have finished in the Top 20.
The Tigers won the 2003 national championship, winning six times that year including the ACC, NCAA Regional and NCAA Championship tournaments, beating runner-up Oklahoma State by two strokes on the Cowboys’ home course. Clemson had a 183-8-3 record against its opponents that year.
Penley as the national coach of the year in 2003 and has been ACC coach of the year seven times.
Entering the spring of 2021, he has 79 career victories, second only to legendary Wake Forest coach Jesse Haddock who had 83 career wins. Penley’s teams have won nine ACC Tournaments and seven NCAA regionals.
Penley coached 31 All-Americans, and former players have combined to win 15 PGA Tour events including Lucas Glover’s win in the 2009 U.S. Open.
But he has not only been a great coach, he’s also been a great player. Penley was an All-ACC golfer at Clemson from 1977-81. Even during his coaching career, Penley managed to stay on top of his game. He won back-to-back South Carolina Amateur titles in 1987 and 1988 and was the runner-up in 1986 and 1989.
He was inducted into the Golf Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004 at the age of 44 and became a member of the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I can’t thank Clemson University enough for allowing me to live a dream,” Penley said in his retirement announcement. “Being part of the Clemson Golf program as a player, assistant coach and head coach since 1977 has been special to say the least. Thanks also to all of our past student-athletes and their families. It has been an honor to serve as their coach. I am proud of the way they have represented Clemson in competition and off the course, when they were student-athletes and in their careers.
“Thanks to all the administrators, in the athletic department and across campus, who have worked so hard to make this an elite program. We’ve had an amazing journey together. I’ve thought a lot about retirement over the past few years and believe the time is right. I am proud of what we have accomplished over the last four decades, but we have unfinished work ahead this spring. I can’t wait to see what this team can accomplish. We have a chance to be very special.”
Feb. 17: Trident Medical Center Lowcountry Transitions will hold its Mental Health Heroes golf tournament Feb. 17 at Dunes West Golf & River Club. The entry fee is $500 per team. Register at mhheroes.com/golf or email [email protected] for more information.
Kari Stoltz, Dec. 13, Links at Stono Ferry, No. 6, 82 yards, wedge. Witnesses: Jey Reynard, John Hathaway.
Drew Sosebee, Dec. 30, Plantation Course at Edisto, No. 3, 185 yards, 6-iron. Witnesses: Mike Walls, Joe Wamer.
Jeff Harrell, Jan. 2, Links at Stono Ferry, No. 11, 153 yards, 5-iron. Witnesses: Alan Fink, Herb Brown, Ed Tamsberg.
Charlie Tapp, Jan. 2, Summerville Country Club, No. 6, 140 yards, 8-iron. Witnesses: Gerry Purvis, David Terry, Ce Buddin.
David Lyle, Jan. 4, Bulls Bay Golf Club, No. 3, 130 yards, 8-iron. Witness: Kelly Lyle.
David Erdly, Jan. 5, Charleston Municipal Golf Course, No. 11, 152 yards, pitching wedge. Witness: Michael Elijah.
Max Presutti, Jan. 5, Cassique-Kiawah Island Club, No. 5, 139 yards, pitching wedge. Witness: Guy Presutti.
John Boatwright, Jan. 10, Charleston Municipal Golf Course, No. 11, 148 yards, 7-iron. Witnesses: Richard Ross, Kip Parks, Harrison Murray.
Jeff Price, Jan. 10, Plantation Course at Edisto, No. 3, 127 yards, 7-iron. Witnesses: Jerrel Jernigan, Mickey Yelton, Terry Dobson.
John Larson, Jan. 11, Cassique-Kiawah Island Club, No. 13, 163 yards, 6-iron. Witnesses: Frank Robb, Avie Wheeler.
Bob Bohme, Jan. 13, Crooked Oaks-Seabrook Island Club, No. 16, 128 yards, 7-iron. Witnesses: Ken Hubbard, Mike Jones, Jerry McMahon.
M.O. York, Jan. 13, Bulls Bay Golf Club, No. 17, 120 yards, 8-iron. Witnesses: Sid Glasgow, Bill Longfield, Keith Roberts.
Tony Campbell, Jan. 14, Berkeley Country Club, No. 15, 128 yards, 5-iron. Witnesses: Jimmy Priester, Lynn Priester.
Jay Bland, Jan. 14, Burn Kill-Wescott Golf Club, No. 6, 158 yards, 5-hybrid. Witness: Sandy Bland.