Quietly this weekend, Holy Cross College golf head coach T.J. Mannen resigned on Saturday.
The news shocked administration and players alike as both the men’s and women’s teams played this weekend at the Battle at Blackthorn tournament. According to Holy Cross dean and vice president of student life Andrew Polaniecki, the resignation was utterly unexpected.
“We became aware of the resignation of our golf coach on Saturday. And yeah… was not expecting it, [I] was surprised by it,” he said.
Holy Cross athletic director Tom Robbins confirmed the surprise of the resignation and addressed that the reason Mannen decided to step away from the head coaching job, a position he has held for a decade, was due to family.
Though the school did not take immediate action Sunday, there was a player meeting for both teams Monday at 8 p.m. Those in attendance included Polaniecki, Robbins and the assistant golf coaches.
The meeting lasted nearly 50 minutes as the College administration tried to address the player’s concerns and fielded various questions.
According to Robbins, the school’s first move was to put in place assistant coach Aaron Martinez as the interim head coach to ensure the stability of the rest of the season. Though Martinez will serve as the interim, the school expects to begin a coaching search at the season’s conclusion.
“There will be a formal process for naming a new coach, and certainly a search for a new coach, and then a complete interview process with multiple levels to it,” Robbins said.
The school’s next step was to ensure that the players were completely supported. Polaniecki emphasized that the College’s goal was to ensure the golf team felt supported throughout the ordeal, both on and off the greens.
“That was the most important thing for the last 48 hours,” Polaniecki said, “How do we continue to support the team so that they can continue to golf and compete without disrupting the season.”
Though the school was quick to act and take steps to limit the impact of Mannen’s departure, both teams have been hit incredibly hard by the loss. The two teams were actively competing in the St. Francis Invite Monday but decided not to play in the second round, which took place Tuesday, in light of the news.
Both teams were incredibly close with Mannen, with the senior class being the most heavily impacted.
“There is obviously some disappointment from the players,” Polaniecki said, “Particularly some of the ones that have known coach T.J. for four and some of them for five years right, because of the COVID year.”
The third step for the school was to address any questions the players had about Mannen’s exit, predominantly pertaining to their athletic futures at the college. Robbins was quick to reassure the teams that he would work with them to fulfill any promises Mannen had made during recruiting and the season.
“We are committed to a golf team, we are committed to having a good program, we are committed to numbers of years of future success and that they will obviously be a big part of that and anything Coach Mannen promised the players in terms of their recruiting process, those will be fulfilled,” Robbins said.
In addition to renewing its commitment to the golf team, Robbins added that the College would also try to strengthen its women’s team.
“We only have four [female] golfers currently. Four golfers.” said Robbins. “We need to get eight golfers next year, and I talked about how I will be helping interim Coach Martinez and assistant coach Brian Matthews with anything they need to help do that.”
Mannen has unquestionably left big shoes to fill with his unexpected departure. He was an assistant coach for two years before becoming the head coach of the Saints, a position he would hold for ten years. Beyond developing exceptional relationships with his players, Mannen brought much-needed stability to the program. Mannen earned his PGA certification in 2005.
During his time at the College, Coach Mannen would coach the Men’s Golf team to three NAIA National Tournament appearances in 2012, 2018 and 2019. The latter two years were a dominant stretch for Holy Cross, with the Saints winning the men’s conference championship. Mannen was rewarded with CCAC coaching honors for both teams in 2018 and the men’s team in 2019.
In addition to strong team showings, Mannen had incredible success at the individual level. In his ten years, Mannen coached twelve golfers on both teams to the CCAC All-Conference team. A highlight was when all-star golfer Natalia Campbell qualified for an individual bid for the 2018 NAIA women’s national tournament.
Throughout his ten years, Mannen has had academic success with his players as well, coaching 30 golfers to the CCAC All-Academic team. Coach Mannen’s unexpected departure certainly complicates his legacy at Holy Cross.
Nevertheless, as hard as it will be to forget his abrupt departure, it will be just as hard to forget the accomplishments of both him and his players, and even though he may be gone, the program is primed for success both in the short term and the long term.
Robbins said it simply: “His tenure here is another legacy; the amount of years that he was here. Sometimes at the college level you get more turnover, and the fact that he was here for a decade [is his legacy].”