Hank Haney was one of four University of Tulsa graduates to be presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award at a special ceremony Thursday. Also honored were former football player and coach Lovie Smith, Judy Zarrow Kishner and Thomas H. Russell.
Haney attended the TU Lettermen’s Golf Tournament at LaFortune Park Friday, greeting old friends like former roommate and professional golfer Ron Streck (picture). He then accompanied Tulsa golf coaches Bill Brogden and Randy Keck to The Patriot in Owasso where he gave a talk to both the TU men’s and women’s golf teams.
Haney, a 1977 TU graduate who went on to become one of the world’s most recognized and decorated golf instructors, including long-time mentor to Tiger Woods, said receiving the award was touching.
"I am truly humbled," he said at LaFortune Park Friday. "The ceremony was incredible. It was just the neatest thing. Being back here for this has been very special to me."
Haney and the other recipients will be honored at halftime of Tulsa’s 2:30 p.m. conference game Saturday against Texas-San Antonio.
"It was at Tulsa that I started to figure it all out," Haney said earlier. "How to be a better student, how to be a better golfer, how to be a better teacher. I started to have a plan," Haney said. He carefully watched other members of the golf team and his classmates. He observed coaches and professors he wanted to emulate. He even studied himself, swinging a club in front of a mirror repeatedly. As a young man growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Haney loved playing golf – still does. But even after receiving an athletic scholarship to TU, he realized he would likely never be on the same level as PGA players, like his college roommate Streck; and Haney was okay with that. He wanted to coach, so he focused on that goal, earning a physical education degree.
Even the best-laid plans benefit from the occasional stroke of luck, and Haney said that a public speaking class at TU is one bit of good fortune that has served him well. A soft-spoken man, Haney discovered his voice and today travels around the world delivering motivational talks to a variety of audiences. To some, he’s simply providing an inspirational message ("Champions are trained, not born"). To others, he’s encouraging them to take risks and even consider pursuing golf as a career.
Haney has managed to be in the right place at the right time for more than just a speech class. He was working at Pinehurst Hotel & Country Club when a colleague asked him to help out a struggling rookie, Mark O’Meara. Haney obliged and immediately identified the player’s problem. He went on to coach O’Meara, who won the Masters and the British Open, for more than two decades. That relationship led to Haney’s next fortuitous encounter: coaching O’Meara’s neighbor Tiger Woods. Haney and Woods had a highly successful run that ended in 2010. Haney said he has not taken on a student since then.
Deftly transitioning from organizing intramurals at TU to changing batteries in golf carts at Tulsa’s Meadowbrook Country Club to instructing the No. 1 PGA player in the world, Haney has maintained his modesty.
"To a great extent, golf is my whole life. I watch it, study it, analyze it. I promote it, write about it and speak about it. And in my spare time, I play golf with my friends and my wife, Suzanne," he said. "I’m so incredibly blessed. I don’t feel like I’ve really worked a day in my life."