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Former BYU golfers mourn loss of coach

Published January 8, 2010 5:16 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Karl Tucker, who built BYU's golf program into a national power and sent dozens of players to the PGA Tour, died Friday at his home in Orem. He was 83.

A member of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame and the Utah Golf Hall of Fame, Tucker is best known for coaching the Cougars to the 1981 NCAA championship. His 31-year career, which ended in 1992, also was highlighted by two second-place finishes and 13 top-five placements in the national tournament, remarkable achievements for a cold-weather school.

"He's just legendary," said Bruce Brockbank, who played for Tucker, assisted him and then followed him as BYU's coach. "There are so many people who were influenced by him."

Tucker created strong loyalty, as evidenced by the way so many golfers have come back regularly for Cougar Day, joining in a fund-raising tournament for the program. He coached nine first-team All-Americans, including Johnny Miller and Mike Reid, who went on to long and successful tour careers. Mike Weir, a member of Tucker's last team, won the Masters in 2003.

Known for trademark expressions such as "Just go play" -- his way of telling golfers to disregard the weather or any other potential excuses -- Tucker usually succeeded in getting the most out of each player.

"His great gift as a coach was he had such a keen understanding of the personalities of college kids," Reid said. "He knew us so well. He probably never read it in a book, he just knew that everybody was different. Two guys would make the same mistake -- one, he would chew out; the other, he would ignore."

Citing Tucker's outgoing nature, Reid one joked that nobody played golf for BYU "without learning how to talk." Miller, Jim Nelford and Bobby Clampett became network broadcasters, while Reid went from being shy and withdrawn to a polished speaker.

"He put BYU golf on the map," Miller said in a Utah Golf Association posting. "He had a great personality and was a great recruiter. He got people to come to BYU, even with the Utah weather."

An avid horseman and skier, Tucker routinely shot better than his age in golf before dealing with kidney and heart issues for the past several months. Tucker is survived by his wife, Joanne, and four children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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