Saturday night will be bittersweet time for Alan Kaufman.
The long-time UAB head men's golf coach is retiring at the conclusion of the season and UAB is celebrating his retirement that evening. There is a lot to celebrate, with many of his former players expected to be in attendance, including PGA Tour star Graeme McDowell.
Kaufman started coaching when many people would be considering retirement. He has coached for 15 seasons and the 76-year-old said it was the program that had kept him young, despite some recent health issues. However, he is healthy now and happy to pass the reigns to his assistant coach, Alan Murray.
"Alan has been my assistant for three years and I knew it was the right time (to retire). I knew if I hung around too long, he'd be gone (as a head coach elsewhere). He will do very well and is highly respected by the players."
Kaufman started playing golf at the age of 11 and has been involved in the sport in many different ways for over 60 years. His son, Jeff, played collegiately at LSU in the mid-1980's and his daughter-in-law, Pam, was head women's golf coach at UAB and Samford in the early 1990's. Kaufman grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Grady High School in 1954. He spent his collegiate years at LSU, graduating in 1958. He moved to Birmingham in 1965 and went to work for Coca-Cola. In 1967 Kaufman founded the Wall Street Deli, a national sandwich shop chain.
Kaufman and his wife Pug have been married for 50 years. They have three children and five grandchildren, including Smylie Kaufman, a junior on the golf team at LSU and former Alabama State Amateur champion.
Kaufman became coach in the summer of 1998 when previous coach Mike Dunphy resigned. He was 61 and, in his words, halfway retired with vacation homes in Colorado and Florida.
"It was a big decision to give up that freedom (of semi-retirement), but I've loved every minute of it."
The late Gene Bartow, who was athletic director at the time, contacted Kaufman. They had been friends for 20-plus years as Bartow's son Murry and Kaufman's son Jeff played high school basketball for Berry and Vestavia respectively. Down the road, Murry Bartow would coach at UAB and is now head basketball coach at East Tennessee State.
"Gene knew I was interested in golf and we had played golf through the years. He told me two things (about the coaching job): 'It doesn't pay a lot and it's part-time.' He was right about it not paying a lot! But I would have done it if it hadn't paid a cent. We've been all over the country and even to Japan.
"The friendships we've made. Seeing the players grow up and have families of their own and be successful away from golf, and in golf for some. That's what has made it so worthwhile."
He may be retiring, but he will still be involved. Kaufman will assume a new position with a working title of director of golf, helping raise money for UAB golf and running the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate hosted by Graeme McDowell in the fall.
Looking back on Kaufman's UAB career
Kaufman has led the Blazers to unprecedented success and national acclaim. In his tenure, UAB has made seven NCAA Regional appearances, as well as four NCAA National Championships, highlighted by a 12th-place finish in 2001 in the program's first NCAA Championship appearance.
He is understandably proud of many of his players, but McDowell naturally stands out above all others. He was an All-American performer, becoming UAB's first No. 1-ranked golfer in both collegiate golf polls, the Golfweek Sagarin Performance Index and the Golfstat Cup rankings. He won the 2002 Fred Haskins Trophy, given to the top-performing collegiate golfer of the year, and had six tournament victories during the 2001-02 season and nine for his career.
McDowell won the U.S. Open in 2010 at Pebble Beach and Kaufman was there to see it. Furthermore, McDowell holed the winning putt amid high drama in the 2010 Ryder Cup to lift the Europeans to the title.
Kaufman has also had success with some of his more recent teams. In 2011-12, he led the Blazers to the NCAA Nationals after finishing third in the Stanford Regional.
In 2007-08, he led UAB to the program's first-ever Conference USA championship. The Blazers were led by Zack Sucher, who earned medalist honors, as he became the second consecutive UAB golfer to capture medalist honors at the league championship, Garrett Osborn having done the same in 2007. Under Kaufman's guidance, UAB has finished first or second at the C-USA Championship five times.
The strong 2007-08 season continued for Sucher and UAB in the NCAA East Regional. Behind a school and course record nine-under par 62 during the second round of the Regional, Sucher earned co-medalist honors and led UAB to a fifth-place finish and a berth to Nationals for the third time in school history.
Following Sucher's outstanding season, he earned All-America honors for the second time in his career, making him the fourth golfer in program history to be tabbed All-American (the others being Osborn and Brad Smith), all of whom played under Kaufman.
Furthermore, Sucher was awarded as the 2007-08 Conference USA Golfer of the Year, marking the second UAB golfer who has earned the league's top recognition (Graeme McDowell, 2001 and 2002) under Kaufman.
The 2006-07 campaign was no different as UAB made another NCAA Regional appearance. Moreover, Sucher become the first UAB player ever to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Nationals. Sucher did not disappoint, matching the school record at the NCAAs with a fourth-place finish and earning honorable mention All-America honors.
The Blazers also finished in second place overall at the Conference USA Championships. Because of the strong finish, UAB was an at-large selection to the 2007 NCAA East Regional, where the Blazers finished 14th of 27 teams.
During the 2004-05 season, Kaufman guided a young UAB team to a fourth-place finish in Conference USA. Then-sophomore Garrett Osborn finished fifth at the C-USA tournament and garnered first-team All-C-USA honors. In 2005-06, Osborn continued his successful climb up the collegiate ranks, as he earned an at-large invitation to the 2006 NCAA East Regional, but he was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to injury.
In 2003-04 the Blazers played in the program's fifth NCAA Regional in program history.
In 2001-02 UAB registered a tie for ninth at the NCAA East Regional in Roswell, Ga. The Blazers advanced to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive season.
In 2000-01, Kaufman led the Blazers to ninth at the NCAA East Regional, earning the team's first chance at an NCAA Championship. The Blazers capitalized, finishing tied for 12th in the nation. McDowell won two tournaments and was named a Ping All-American, as well as a member of the Walker Cup and Palmer Cup teams. Because of the Blazers' tremendous success, Kaufman was named C-USA Coach of the Year.
In 1999-2000 UAB posted 10 top-five finishes, winning two tournaments, with senior Chris Devlin capturing one individual title. The Blazers highlighted their season by qualifying for the NCAA East Regional. The team finished 17th in Kaufman's second season in charge.
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