May 19, 2010

By Mike Beas, Special to

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. -- Arms folded across his chest, Jerry Hrnciar, sporting a game face capable of backing down an angry Doberman, closely observes three of his players as they air-mail shot after shot off the practice tee at Sagamore Golf Club.

If Hrnciar, the only men's coach Cameron University has ever had, witnesses something he likes, he steps in. Same holds true if he spots something he doesn't, only faster. Hrnciar (pronounced Hurnshire) is a 66-year-old man who happened to be 30 when he became volunteer coach at the school in Lawton, Okla.

You do the math.

Since 1974 Hrnciar has built Cameron into one of the premier Division II programs west of the Mississippi River, in the process garnering enough coaching awards to fill most trophy rooms. His 1983 Aggies were NAIA champions. In 1996 Cameron, which had become a Division II program seven years earlier, took third nationally.

By carding a team score of 302 Wednesday, Hrnciar's current club is in sixth place with a two-day total of 38-over-par 614 at the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships. Should the Aggies rally over the final two days and capture the title, it might even hasten the coach's retirement plans.

"I'll coach as long as I enjoy it, and, frankly, think we have a chance to win it," Hrnciar said. "I would like to win a national championship one more time before I retire."

Hrnciar is walking, talking proof that longevity has both its rewards and challenges. Not only has golf equipment become far more sophisticated than during the 1970s and '80s, but the athletes themselves are different.

"I notice about every five years that kids change. We deal with the entitlement generation, and that's hard for me because I'm old-school," said Hrnciar, who played for Texas Tech in the mid-1960s and enjoyed a 16-year run as head professional at Lawton Country Club.

"I am real blunt in the recruiting process."

A kind and obliging man with a knee-buckling handshake, Hrnciar is barely past introductions when he informs prospective recruits and their parents about the Three G's: how his athletes during golf season must keep grades, golf and girls in that order of importance.

If not? Well ...

"When I see those three are out of order, I'll call you in," Hrnciar said. "If I call you in a second time, I tell you to bring a list of three schools you would like to transfer to and I'll accommodate that player the best I can."

Hrnciar's approach may sound archaic, but the results speak for themselves. He produces good golf teams and quality adults prepared for the uncertainties that lie ahead in life.

His way. The highway. You choose.

FAIR RIGHT AT HOME: Home-state representation has been difficult to find at the Division II championships in terms of participants. In truth, University of Indianapolis senior Seth Fair is pretty much flying solo in that department.

Fair, a former basketball teammate of Butler standout and March Madness hero Gordon Hayward at nearby Brownsburg High School, followed up Tuesday's 6-over 78 with a 74 during Wednesday's second round for 23rd place individually.