For University of Houston head golf coach Vince Jarrett, it was a chance to come back home. It was a chance to return to the school where he had played and had dreamed of coaching. A native of Houston, Jarrett played golf at Houston's Reagan High School and South Texas Junior College before playing for UH's legendary coach Dave Williams.
To come home, Jarrett knew he would have to leave the place where he had made friends who were now like family. He would have to leave behind a highly successful program that he built the previous 18 years as head coach.
But, when University of Houston director of athletics Dave Maggard talked to him about returning to his alma mater and becoming the school's fifth head golf coach, it was too much of an opportunity for Jarrett to turn down.
"This was a great opportunity for me personally because this is where I went to school and where I am from," Jarrett said. "It was something I wanted to do for a long time, and I am very excited about having returned to Houston."
In His Fourth Season
Now in his fourth season at Houston, Jarrett is slowly duplicating the same success he enjoyed at Abilene Christian University, where he led the Wildcats to one NCAA Championship, seven conference titles and 16 NCAA regional or national tournament appearances.
This past fall, Jarrett led the Cougars to a runner-up finish at the North Texas Mean Green Classic and top four showings at the Kansas Invitational and Pepperdine Club Glove Intercollegiate tournaments. Individually, Jordan Irwin won individual medallist honors at the Mean Green Classic, and was the runner-up at the Kansas Invitational. Ricky Romano was the runner-up at the Pepperdine Club Glove Intercollegiate.
Four Tournament Championships
Houston entered the fall campaign coming off its most successful season under Jarrett. The Cougars won four tournament titles for the first time since 1985-86, when they won team championships at the North Texas Classic, All-American Intercollegiate, Louisiana Classics and Palmetto Intercollegiate tournaments in 2005-06. Houston also enjoyed its best NCAA Regional finish since 2001.
Individually, Pablo Acuña and Ricky Romano also were named All-Conference USA selections. Acuña was the individual medallist at the North Texas Classic, and Irwin was the individual champion at the Palmetto Intercollegiate for the second straight year in the spring campaign. .
In 2004-05, Jarrett led his team to championships at the Cobb/Ferrell Mean Green Classic during the fall season and the Palmetto Intercollegiate in the spring campaign. It was the first time since 1998-99 that the Cougars won two tournaments in the same season.
Individually, Zach Mowbray won medalist honors at the Cobb/Ferrell Mean Green Classic. Junior Pablo Acuña led the team with a 74.0 scoring average and was named to the All-Conference USA Third Team.
In 2003-04, Jarrett took the reins and guided the Cougars to a second-place finish at the Mean Green Classic in the team's first fall tournament of the year. That was one of the highest finishes by a first-year coach in his first event at UH.
The Cougars would go on to record three Top 10 finishes. Individually, Mowbray posted impressive numbers throughout the season to qualify for the NCAA Central Regional. That marked the 16th consecutive season in which at least one Cougar player competed in the NCAA postseason. .
In addition, Ricky Romano was a steady performer for the Cougars in his first collegiate season and was named to the 2004 Conference USA All-Freshmen Team.
Successful Era At Abiline Christian
Jarrett's collegiate coaching career began at Abilene Christian in 1985 when he followed Williams advice to interview for the head coaching position. After interviewing, he took the job and wasted little time in establishing the Wildcats' program as one of the nation's best. He accepted the the position in March 1985 and led the Wildcats to a Lone Star Conference chamionship in 1986.
The next year, he was named the LSC and NCAA District VI Coach of the Year after leading the Wildcats to another conference championship and a seventh place finish at the1987 NCAA Division II National Championships.
Abilene Christian would go on to win five more Lone Star Conference Championships in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995 with Jarrett at the helm. Jarrett also was named LSC Coach of the Year three more times in 1989, 1991 and 1993. He also was the NCAA District VI Coach of the Year in 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1997.
In addition to the seven LSC championships, the Wildcats finished as the runner-up at the conference tournament in 1990, 1992, 1996, 2001 and 2003. During an 11-year span from 1986-1996, Jarrett's ACU teams finished first or second at the LSC Tournament in all but one season.
In 1993, both Golf Week and Bridgestone named Jarrett the National NCAA Division II Coach of the Year after he led Abilene Christian to the NCAA Division II Championship with a five-stroke victory over Columbus State in Tulock, Calif.
Abilene Christian also finished among the Top 10 teams at eight other NCAA Championships. The Wildcats finished third in 1991, fifth in 1995 and 1997, sixth in 1989 and 1992, seventh in 1990 and eighth in 1996.
"I am very proud of what I accomplished at ACU, but more importantly, I am more proud of my golfers and what they did in their own careers," Jarrett said.
Under his tutelage, 27 Wildcat players earned 40 All-America awards, and 14 of his student-athletes were named to Academic All-America teams.
During each of his last three seasons at ACU, at least one of Jarrett's players qualified to compete at the NCAA Championships. Pierre Goethels qualified in 2003 after winning the South Central Regional Championships, while Brian O'Leary qualified in 2002 and was a member of the Lone Star Conference's 2003 All-Academic Team.
James Fleming qualified for the 2001 NCAA Tournament and finished 26th nationally.
One of his players, Jeev Singh, was the NCAA Division II individual champion in 1993, and is now a touring pro on the Asian, European and Nationwide Tours. He recorded wins at the 2006 Volvo China Open and the 2006 Volvo Masters, making him the second player from India to win a European Tour tournament and moved him among the Top 20 Order of Merit golfers on the European Tour.
Other former Wildcats who are now touring pros include Marcus Cain (Nationwide, Australian and Canadian tours) and Jeff White and Steve Johnson, who are on mini-tours across the United States.
Another of his players, Mike Campbell, was named to succeed Jarrett as Abilene Christian's head coach after he earned All-America honors in 1991 and 1993.
Many of his former players have become club pros, including former All-American Donny Darville at Inwood Forest Country Club in Houston and Scott Cory at Canyon Springs Country Club in San Antonio, Texas.
In addition to his extensive coaching duties, Jarrett served on the NCAA Golf Committee from 1992-2001 and was the committee chairman from 1998-2001. He also worked as the Golf Coaches' Association Division II representative to the NCAA from 1996 to 1999.
Jarrett went to Abilene Christian after he served as a club pro at three country clubs in Houston: Westwood, River Bend and Inwood.
He turned pro after playing at Houston under the guidance of Williams, two seasons at South Texas Junior College and Houston's Reagan High School.
He and his wife, Pat, have a daughter Lisa and son Justin, both of whom are married.