Handrigan hoping to build on last year’s success
Ryan Kolakowski | Wednesday, August 29, 2018
The ice hockey rink is a sort of haven for many in Bracebridge, a small Canadian town located two hours north of Toronto. While John Handrigan grew up playing hockey in Ontario, he found his lifelong passion on the luscious greens of the golf course when the ice melted away in the summer months.
Handrigan, the head coach of the Notre Dame men’s golf team, said he started playing golf at an early age. His town of 15,000 residents had only one golf course, but Handrigan frequented that course from the time he was five years old.
“My first mentor was the golf pro at the golf course,” Handrigan said. “His name was Ron Webb, and he offered me a job at a young age.”
Handrigan worked with Webb to pick up the loose golf balls that patrons scattered throughout the driving range. Webb took him under his wing and taught him the fundamentals of the sport, Handrigan said.
Handrigan eventually left Canada to play golf at the collegiate level in the United States. He traveled south of the United States–Canada border to attend Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. After his undergraduate career came to a close, Handrigan continued to pursue his passion as a professional athlete.
“A dream I always had was playing professional golf, so I tried that and gave it everything I had,” Handrigan said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out at a young age, but I wanted to stay in golf.”
After his brief stint as a professional golfer, Handrigan returned to Saint Francis to pursue his Master of Business Administration. From there, he landed his first coaching job at Coker College, a Division II school in Hartsville, South Carolina.
“I just realized that I loved that career and I wanted to work my way up,” Handrigan said.
That first coaching stint was nearly two decades ago, and he has since climbed the ladder of his profession.
“I started up at Kansas, was the assistant coach there, then moved to Florida and was the assistant coach there,” he said.
Handrigan found success coaching at the Division 1 level. In 2015, he was named National Assistant Coach of the Year, an award that is voted upon by other coaches from across the country.
Handrigan is now in his 19th season of coaching. He took the reins of the Irish men’s golf program prior to last season, and he thinks his success as an assistant coach has translated well to his new head coaching position.
“At the University of Florida, the head coach there, J.C. Deacon, he didn’t really view me as an assistant coach … he allowed me to run certain parts of the program and I learned a lot,” Handrigan said. “The transition from being an assistant to a head coach here was not that much different because I felt like I was doing that the last few years at Florida.”
In his first year as the Irish head coach, Handrigan led the program to a largely successful campaign. Notre Dame won its home tournament, the Fighting Irish Classic, and finished in sixth place at the ACC tournament. The Irish demolished their own previous record at the ACC tournament, slashing their score by 27 strokes.
“I think the first year we really focused on changing the expectations of the program, changing the culture,” Handrigan said. “We had a great group of guys last year, 10 guys that were really strong in character. They were looking for leadership, looking to change the work ethic of the program, and we did that last year.”
Handrigan hopes to build on last year’s success as he enters his second year leading the program. He said that he has high expectations for his squad, and he will rely on the leadership of his seniors, Ben Albin, Kevin Conners and Miguel Delgado.
“We put a lot on our seniors this year, and we explained to them that we felt like there was a part of our program that we lacked last year, and that was leadership,” Handrigan said. “Those three seniors are now our captains this year, and we’re going to be relying on them to provide leadership and help out our younger players.”
While his three seniors will serve as leaders and captains for the men’s golf team, Handigan expects every member of the team to compete for the lowest scores and for one of the five travel roster spots.
“We have 10 guys on this team, and I can see any one of those guys being our No. 1 player,” Handrigan said. “It’s great because we have a lot of depth, but at the same time, there’s going to be a lot of competition for those spots.”
The Irish tee off their season at the Badger Invitational in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sept. 9.