Former Bethune-Cookman University Golf Head Coach Dr. Gary Freeman led the Wildcats to 12 national titles, passed away Tuesday morning. He was 78.
The PGA Professional who had a Ph. D. in education administration guided the Wildcat women to eight National Minority College Golf Championships and the men’s team to four. He established a program that gained world-wide prominence, drawing numerous international golfers to attend B-CU.
“He was the architect of our golf program and a Godsend to Bethune-Cookman University,” said B-CU Athletic Director Lynn W. Thompson. “His 12 years were great ones that left the strongest of foundations for our efforts to continue a winning golf program. The B-CU athletics family offers its prayers and support to his family.”
Loritz Clark succeeded Dr. Freeman last season, but already had a long-standing relation with his predecessor.
“I knew Gary for 25 years and he was a mentor to me and more,” Clark said, “When he started at B-CU, he was someone I looked up to because he was one of only a few African-American PGA professionals at the time. He was an inspiration for me to get my PGA membership. I used him as a sounding board and a tremendous resource during my first season.”
Dr. Freeman’s influence remains strong with his players.
“Coach Freeman means the world to me,” said freshman Emanuel Petrich, “I just remember when I came down here for my visit, we had dinner and he told me he was saving a scholarship for me. My thought was `Why would you save it for me? There are plenty of good golfers out there.'”
“He told me that he knew I was dedicated and that I would work hard and I would make him and the team proud,” Petrich continued. “That’s what I’m trying to do now every time I play. I will always remember that dinner. I’m sad that I won’t be able to see him one more time.”
“He gave me an opportunity to play collegiate golf,” said Maria Garrido, currently a graduate assistant coach at B-CU. “I’m the person I am today because of him.”