Fennie brings back the Pride
Wins national championship after second full season
Dirk Fennie was the 1999 North Carolina Amateur champion. He won a Big South conference title and was named the league’s Player of the Year.
The New Jersey native has had golf in his blood for as long as he can remember – his father served as a USGA Committee Member and the US Senior Open general chairman twice.
He teed it up for two United States Amateur Championships and was a 2004 quarterfinalist at the US Public Links.
So it’s easy to say Fennie has had a few “golf moments” in his life.
But there is a new No. 1.
No, not mentoring five young Greensboro College golfers to the NCAA Division III men’s golf championship last Friday. It’s what happened afterward that sticks in the coach’s head.
“My daughter (Meredith) is 8 and she thinks I’m famous now,” said Fennie. “After we won the tournament, there were all these cameras and people interviewing me, and she thinks I’m a big deal now. I could never get her to come to the course, she thinks golf is boring, but she was there (last Friday) to see us win.
“She always identified golf as something that took me away from her so she didn’t like it that much.”
Fennie was named as Scott Tiernan’s successor in April of 2009. He took over a program that had won a national title in 2000 and finished among the top-5 13 times since 1975. But The Pride had not qualified for the NCAA Championships since 2005.
In 2010 Fennie’s team returned to the dance and tied for 11th.
“We weren’t winning golf tournaments before (Coach Fennie) got here,” said Greensboro senior Brock Elder. “We owe him a lot. He put in a lot of work.”
Greensboro trailed by five strokes after the first round. St. John’s held a 3-shot advantage at the halfway point. But The Pride, thanks in part to Ben Nihart’s even-par third round during a tough scoring day, jumped into the lead with just 18 holes remaining.
“There were some big thoughts, some of the guys talking about how they were going to win a championship after that second day,” said Fennie. “They were getting ahead of themselves and I put a stop to it. It’s a four-round tournament and you have to stay in the moment, one day, one hole, one shot at a time.”
The final day was hectic and involved the usual stress. Technology allows for instant results. Instead of hearing of a double bogey, a birdie or somebody making a charge through the grapevine, all it takes now is an application on a phone.
“Everything happens so fast. You are up three and then down two,” said Fennie. “You refresh and you are up again. There is really no time to think about it. Some of the guys like to know, others don’t.
“I was really into it, though, trying to keep up with everything. By the time it was all over I was pretty numb.”
Fennie spent the weekend doing some much-needed yard-work, which he called “therapeutic.”
He also continued to play movie star in the eyes of an 8-year-old.