Dave Jennings' role in college golf almost never was.
The 22 year veteran golf coach at Central Alabama Community College celebrated his retirement with CACC staff this week, but it was his inquiry into saving the golf program that led to the job. Jennings wrote then CACC president Dr. Jim Cornell an email one Sunday evening after learning the golf program was about to be dropped.
“Monday morning, 6:30 a.m., I get an email back from Dr. Cornell asking to meet on Wednesday and we met with three gentlemen who have passed now — Billy Hardy, Hoyt Carlisle and Al Harper,” Jennings said. “We started a steering committee and made sure everybody in Alex City wanted the golf program back.”
The staff of CACC wanted to keep the golf program and so did Alexander City. Cornell would talk Jennings into coming to Alexander City from being a golf pro in Atlanta at the time.
Twenty two years later and CACC athletic director Kathleen Thompson said Jennings’ resume is too long to repeat.
“We are talking about too many district and conference tournament wins to count,” Thompson said. “Two national championships count for sure.”
Thompson said there was an academic national championship team.
“That’s not because of me,” Jennings said.
Jennings knew he had 71 tournament wins and 32 runner ups to go along with the two national championships. It all bettered Jennings’ collegiate golf career.
“I played for Troy right out of high school,” Jennings said. “I left and walked on here at CACC three years later. I played the spring of ‘76 and fall of ‘76. Went through the winter quarter and the coach said I ran out of eligibility. I turned pro and went to Birmingham.”
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Cornell was happy the golf program continued under Jennings.
“I was very fortunate to find Dave,” Cornell said. “He was a former golfer here. He agreed to take over the golf program and has done a fabulous job.”
The CACC program had five national championships before Jennings started, but Cornell said Jennings championed another favorite memory of CACC golf.
“I remember we were the only two year program invited to a tournament,” Cornell said. “We were the only junior college to ever be invited. There were only like 10 teams, the best four year teams around. Going into the last day we were leading the whole tournament. They called us some awful names.”
Jennings has worked for current CACC president Jeff Lynn for about two years. Lynn said a process is underway to hire a new golf coach but said it will be difficult to replace Jennings.
“I go home to my wife that night and tell her, ‘Oh my God. I have got to replace Dave Jennings,’” Lynn said. “That is not an easy task. We are trying to go through that process. I think golf is synonymous with [CACC] because of what you have done. You have touched the lives of all our students. You have changed the lives of so many kids across this state. I’m not dumping you, you are retiring.”
Jennings has plans to relax a little and fish a little more in retirement, but golf won’t be far away. Instead of traveling with a team to tournaments across the country, Jennings will work to grow the game locally.
“I’m going to be doing player development with high school kids,” Jennings said. “Also I will work with some college programs who need help.”
Everyone said they loved Jennings and his jovial attitude and even in saying goodbye to full time coaching, Jennings was still telling jokes.
“Over 22 years, I imagine I have made somebody mad.” Jennings said. “This is a blanket apology for them all. I hope I have never disappointed. It has been a great ride. It has been a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.”