Cardinal golf coach hands in his clubAlexandria’s Dave Harris has helped establish a Cardinal girls’ golf program that has been a model of consistency over the past decade.
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
CAREER FOR COACH HARRIS
Harris coached the Cardinal girls’ golf team to 10 Central Lakes Conference titles.
HIs teams have also had four state tournament appearances, including back to back trips in 2007 and 2008, and in 2001 and 2002
The Cardinals finished third at state in 2001 and 2008, and second in 2002 and 2007
He was named Section coach of the year in 2001, 2002, 2007 and 2008
Harris was honored as State coach of the year in 2001 and 2008
Alexandria girls’ head golf coach: 1994-2008
Assistant girls’ golf coach: 1987-1993
Junior high golf coach: 1977-1986
Alexandria’s Dave Harris has helped establish a Cardinal girls’ golf program that has been a model of consistency over the past decade.
As head coach, Harris has guided his team to seven straight Central Lakes Conference championships and back-to-back state tournament appearances. Now, starting next spring, the Cardinal program will have to see if they can maintain that level of play without him leading the way.
Harris stepped down from his head coaching position recently after 32 years of coaching golf at the junior high and high school levels. He was head coach for the Cardinals from 1994-2008 when he won 10 conference titles in his tenure and made four trips to state. Tim Zupfer takes over the reins next season after spending the last eight years as Harris’ assistant coach.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” Harris said when asked why he felt now was the right time to step away. “I made the decision last winter and my wife and I had talked about it. I knew we would have a good team this past season and be a contender for a state championship. I also knew only three out of the top nine kids would be graduating, so the program would have talent coming back.
“I still have a passion for coaching and I still have a passion for the kids,” Harris said. “I’m 65 years old now and I didn’t want to go too long to the point where I would just be there putting in the time. I wanted to go out feeling good about my coaching, and I did. It was the time for me to make the decision to retire.”
Harris leaves the coaching ranks with plenty of accolades to his name – a member of the Minnesota Golf Coaches association hall of fame, a four time section coach of the year and now a two-time state of Minnesota Coach of the Year Award winner. He was recently rewarded with the Class AAA state coach of the year honor at the annual state high school coaches association awards banquet on October 4.
“It’s kind of a neat way to put a final touch on a coaching career,” Harris said. “To be voted on that by your peers is really an honor. There are an awful lot of good coaches in the state.”
Harris was quick to shift a lot of the credit for the Cardinals’ success to a number of other people throughout the community. He pointed to many of the golf professionals at the local golf clubs, along with support of youth programs for golfers at an early age, as key components of maintaining a winning program. He also pointed to the support of his wife, Evie, and their two sons as the main reason he was able to coach for 32 years.
But in the end, it is the athletes that put up the scores on the golf course. Coaching awards seldom come without having talent at one’s disposal.
“It really is something you can be proud of,” Harris said of the accolades he has received over his career. “But so much of it is because of the good kids we’ve had and the support from parents, golf courses, golf pros, the administration – you get there because of those people. They’re there supporting you and encouraging. It really comes down to the kids, though. They set it up for you to win and to be proud of what happens.”
Harris’ spent a lot of his time as coach trying to instill in his players that they win with class and they lose with class.
He was never more proud of one of his players than he was four years ago at the section tournament. A senior at the time, Ann Dressen was in a three-way playoff with a spot in the state tournament on the line. Dressen hit her second shot before walking a little ways further and realizing that she had hit the wrong ball.
“She immediately turned and looked at the official and said ‘I’m disqualified because I hit the wrong ball,’” Harris said.
Dressen was not disqualified but the penalty strokes all but eliminated her chances of advancing to state.
“She called the penalty on herself,” Harris said. “No one would have known, but that is what we’re all about. That to me is just the most remarkable thing I saw as a coach. It was an unbelievable experience.”
Respect of the game is just one of the things that Zupfer now wants to continue as the Cardinals’ new head coach. Winning is another one as he gets set to take over a program that comes into each season with lofty expectations.
Zupfer does not lack for coaching experience. He spent eight years as Harris’ assistant, while also spending 15 years as a junior high cross country coach and 24 years as an assistant girls’ basketball coach. This will be the first time that the opportunity to lead a program has presented itself, and it is an opportunity that he relishes.
“I’ve coached in three different sports,” Zupfer said. “Those head coaches had been in those sports for a number of years and the opportunity [to be a head coach] hadn’t really presented itself. So I was sad to see Dave retire but also excited to apply for that position and was extremely excited to get that position.”
He will have talent to work with next spring. Alexandria returns four players from their state tournament team of a year ago. They did lose two important pieces of that team in Molly Leland and Jenny Robley. Zupfer said replacing those two spots in the lineup and getting more girls out for golf will be his biggest challenges heading into his first season where the pressure to perform at a high level will still be there.
“You want to carry on and maintain the tradition that has been there,” Zupfer said. “The tradition goes back a long ways, the recent tradition has been very successful, but if you go back to the inception of the program in the late [1970s], both the boys’ and girls’ programs have been successful. Whether the pressure is there inherently or not, you place some of that pressure on yourself.”
Assisting Harris for the past eight seasons should help ease some of that pressure next spring. Zupfer learned a lot from him over those years, including how to teach the kids and how to properly manage his time. He also built a rapport with many of the area coaches that should help make his transition a little easier.
“It’s an honor to coach in that position,” Zupfer said of moving into the head-coaching role. “It was an honor to work with Dave. Like I said, I’m excited to continue the success that he established over the years.”