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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Golf

A decade in, Dismuke hasn’t lost sight of a 17th national championship


Head coach and director of golf Jonathan Dismuke (left) is going into his 10th year with Houston. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Head coach and director of golf Jonathan Dismuke (left) is going into his 10th year with Houston. | Courtesy of UH athletics

One number means more for director of golf and head coach Jonathan Dismuke.

Seventeen.

It’s been the magic number for Dismuke since he arrived at Houston 10 years ago.

For the Cougars, it has been on the brain since 1985, the year they won their 16th and latest national championship.

A decade into the job, Dismuke still longs for lucky No. 17, and he is glad those above him still believe in the goals he set back in 2009.

“Ten years is a long time in the coaching world,” Dismuke said. “There has been a lot of people that have gone out of their way and made me feel comfortable and believed in the vision that I’ve had.”

But the first was former UH athletics director Mack Rhoades, the current head of Baylor athletics that hired Dismuke in June 2009.

“Jonathan is regarded as a rising star in the business, a quality individual and will serve as a great role model for our student-athletes as he helps to prepare them to be champions for life,” Rhoades said in a 2009 announcment.

He has also garnered support from his staff, with former assistant Chris Hill telling The Cougar in 2014 that Dismuke “is the best coach in golf.”

It’s fitting he coaches one of the most successful programs in collegiate golf.

Lured by legend

Like many who pass through the program, Dismuke said, he was enticed by Houston’s history.

“Much of what attracted me to the University is the past success of the golf program,” Dismuke said after his hiring over a decade ago. “It is one of the most decorated programs in collegiate golf history.”

Houston, which is second only to Yale (20) in number of national titles, is ranked No. 1 on the Golf Channel’s list of best all-time programs.

The Cougars’ standing in the record books, Dismuke said, contributes to recruiting.

“It’s definitely a conversation piece,” Dismuke said. “I have had players say that that was a part of the decision-making process.”

But the biggest factor in helping Houston reach its goal is obvious — budget.

Big bucks for birdies

Dismuke’s arrival at Houston coincided with a boom on campus that skyrocketed UH’s enrollment numbers from a little over 36,000 in 2008-09 to 46,324 in 2018-19.

With the expansion came the University’s renewed focus on athletics, which included pumping hundreds of millions of dollars in football and basketball facilities in the ten years Dismuke has been here and, of course, more money for Dismuke to build a successful program.

“It’s night and day,” Dismuke said. “We had almost zero budget for golf when I showed up.”

 In his first year, the former Auburn golfer said, Houston had about $22,000 to spend but have “infinitely more” to spend today.

While Dismuke won’t take credit for it and prefers to refer to himself as a “facilitator” of UH’s success during his tenure. He is responsible for much of the fundraising and leg work that went into the Cougars’ upgrades, namely the Golf Club of Houston being designated its home course.

“We had no facilities when I showed up,” Dismuke said. “We have a world-class facility at Golf Club of Houston now. The whole landscape for the athletics department and the University has vastly improved.”

Project 17

Along with Dismuke, “Project 17”, an umbrella term used by Dismuke referring to another national title win, is going into its 10th year.

Although the Cougars have gotten close, in 2014 finishing 10th in its first NCAA Championships appearance since 2001, they have not yet been able to seal the coveted No. 17.

Still, Dismuke’s vision remains, and it has trickled down to his players in the past.

“We have a job to do,” Roman Robledo, a former Cougar who plays professionally, told The Cougar in 2011. “Our job is to bring that NCAA championship back to UH to bring that legacy back.”

A few years later that sentiment remained amongst players.

“Our expectation is the national championship,” former player Wesley McClain told The Cougar in 2014.

But what has kept him at the helm of Houston golf for 10 years?

The work, Dismuke said, he and program have put in since the day he was hired.

“It’s been extremely calculated,” Dismuke said. “We have vision, we have goals and a lot things we are trying to accomplish over time. We’ve been able to knock a lot of that out.

“I think that’s the reason I’ve been okay staying here, and I think that’s the reason the University has been okay having me in this role,” he said.

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