Long Time Tiger Golf Coach Jim Cook Dies In His Sleep
Jim Cook, who was in his 32nd year as head coach of The University of Memphis men's golf program, died in his sleep on Friday, November 8th. Cook was 62 years old.
A 1968 graduate of The U of M, Cook came to the University of Memphis after working as a teacher and coach in the Shelby County (TN) school system.
During his tenure as head coach, the Tiger golf team won 13 collegiate tournaments, including the 1977 and 1988 Metro Conference Championships and the 1992 Great Midwest Conference title.
Having recruited some of the top players in the U.S. and Canada, Cook's team was using a youth movement to replace several seniors who graduated last spring and was having a great deal of success during the fall of 2002. The Tigers had won the DePaul Blue Demon Invitational in October and had placed in the top five in each of the five events played.
Cook's 1992-93 Tiger squad, which had lost several all-conference players from the previous season, battled throughout the year and finished the Great Midwest Conference Tournament in a first-place tie with the University of Cincinnati. The two teams went head-to-head in a sudden death playoff with the Bearcats winning the tournament on the second playoff hole. Senior Mark Maness also tied for medalist honors with Dan Gage of Cincinnati, but lost in a sudden death playoff.
Under Cook's tutelage, The U of M placed two members on the 1993-94 GMC All-Conference team in Clint Clement and Grant Robbins, and had four team members on the GMC All-Conference team in 1992-93, including Mark Maness, Robbins, Scott McLargin and Clement.
Cook coached his 1991-92 squad to the first Great Midwest Conference golf championship in May of 1992 at Cog Hill Golf Club in Chicago, Illinois. Led by Troy Witham, Maness, Brian Reeb and Robbins, the Tigers captured not only the team title but the individual medalist honors as well. In addition, Cook was named the Great Midwest Conference Coach of the Year.
His Coach of the Year honors and conference championship meant a great deal to the head coach who had battled back from open heart surgery just two years earlier.
During the fall of 1990, while recovering from heart surgery, Cook's Tigers dedicated the season to their head coach and won the Hillman Robbins Memorial Intercollegiate and the Dixie Intercollegiate and placed third in the Glenn Red Jacoby Intercollegiate during the fall campaign.
In 1987, under Cook's guidance, the Tigers won the Murray State Intercollegiate and completed the 1987 season by capturing the Metro Conference championship. Since the Metro began playing a championship tournament in 1976, Cook's teams were consistently one of the best in the conference. The University of Memphis won the first conference championship in 1976 and repeated as conference champs in 1987. The Tigers finished second on five occasions. Tony Mitchell captured two Metro Conference individual championships and Paul Haire won one title.
Cook transformed the program from one that relied heavily on local talent, to one that can compete for players throughout the country. Recent rosters have included players from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Texas and Maine. The Tigers have also had players from England and Canada.
As a collegiate coach, Cook contributed much more than just his coaching abilities. He was the director of the Hillman Robbins Memorial Intercollegiate Tournament and assisted in the formation of the tournament. He served on the selection committee for the NCAA Golf Championships and served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern Golf Association. Cook was the past chairman of the Legislative Committee for the GCAA (Golf Coaches Association of America), and had been the Division I Representative to the GCAA Board of Directors. He was a former member of the board of Christ United Methodist Church and headed up the churches security committee.
Jim and his wife Mary Nell have two sons, Jay, a graduate of Memphis and Christopher, age 21, a current college student.