Despite being UT-Chattanooga’s coach for over a decade, Mark Guhne’s enthusiasm and love for the job was evident as he addressed the Chattanooga Kiwanis Club. As the coach of the men’s golf team, the Chattanooga lifer and UTC graduate recalled the day he was offered the job.
“I remember when I got the job. Steve Sloan was gracious enough to hire me as a volunteer. For the first 17 years of my life, I built houses,” said Mr. Guhne, “I was driving home, and was so excited to be able to do something I’d always wanted to do. I was so excited I was able to coach.”
As a coach, his job requires more than just “coaching.” In his words, only about 20 percent of his job involves coaching his athletes. He estimated at least 30 or 40 percent of his job is actually centered around recruiting potential newcomers. The rest is spent trying to get his team into various tournaments in order to strengthen their schedule.
“The last 12 years, we’ve played a top 30 schedule every year,” said coach Guhne, “Everything is based on stroke differential. If you lose by 3 strokes and finish eighth, that’s better than finishing 2nd and lose by 15 strokes.”
However, coach Guhne told the Kiwanis club that as he grows older, he has started to realize that there’s more to coaching than just winning and losing. As a coach of 13 years, he has maintained relationships with players who have moved on from the golf course, who now have families and careers.
“When you first become a coach, it was all about winning a trophy,” said the coach, “And as time went on, and my kids started graduating, I think one of the prouder things for me is that we have so many guys who have families and careers, and it’s great to be keep in touch with them. Being a coach for a while, that’s one side I’m starting to see. I’m very proud of them.”
Of course, winning is still incredibly important to the coach, and as his tenure at UTC has stretched into the double-digits, coach Guhne has done plenty of winning over the seasons.
“We’ve had good runs, and somehow we got to #1 in the country twice. We’ve finished in the top 20 a few times,” said the coach, “Golf is fortunately one of the few sports that can compete with the Alabama’s and Texas’ in on a consistent basis.”
Coach Guhne spoke glowingly of his players, who hail from places near (Chattanooga), and far (such as Germany), saying, “Will Porter from Scotland is our best player. We have a couple of German kids who came in as a walk-ons. We have a kid from California, who the other kids consider international because he’s from California. He’s a good kid, and one off the lead at the tournament he’s at right now. And we’ve got one from Alabama. We’ve got a really diverse bunch of kids.”
As coach Guhne mentioned earlier, recruiting is a vital aspect of his job. Because he can only give out a limited amount of scholarships each year, the majority of his players walk onto the team and pay for school out of pocket. Coach Guhne also said football and basketball are the only sports who give out full athletic scholarships, and only Tennesseeans are eligible to receive academic scholarships. Because of this, he said recruiting the Volunteer state is a huge emphasis for his program.
“I can go after Tennessee kids because they can get the Tennessee Hope scholarship. A kid from Georgia, if he’s good, is going to cost me more than a kid from Germany,” said coach Guhne, “We’re recruiting our own state hard, you can’t hand out an academic scholarship from someone out of town. Basketball and football are the only sports that give out full rides.”
Coaching his athletes to victories on the golf course is only half of the mission of any collegiate coach. After all, they are called “STUDENT-athletes” for a reason. Throughout his tenure as coach of the golf team, coach Guhne has constantly overseen academically-successful squads.
“We constantly maintain a 3.0. We have an incredible academic staff at UTC, and our support staff is incredible. The culture with all the sports at UTC are phenomenal,” said coach Guhne.