After 24 years, BJ Curry is retiring as the boys and girls golf coach at Smith-Cotton.
Curry is also the assistant director at Whittier High School and will remain in that role. He has been teaching at Whittier since the early 2000s and has been the assistant director for three years.
“It takes a lot of time to do both,” he said. “Being gone from there during matches and tournaments made it difficult. Coaching takes a lot of time and a lot of effort and it takes time away from my family. It’s time for me to start enjoying more of that.”
In Curry’s first four years as the coach at Smith-Cotton, his girls teams won four state championships and Libby Howard won a pair of individual titles.
“I feel like our program is a very successful program,” he said. “It was successful before I got it. I just tried to carry on the tradition and whoever takes over, they know they have a quality program to take over.”
Smith-Cotton’s reputation in golf was already firmly established when Lauren Azan arrived as a freshman in the fall of 2008. Her sister, Amanda, had been playing for Curry and there was little question Lauren would follow.
“It was definitely a different experience than any coach I’ve had before,” Lauren said. “He was kind of like a mentor. He had been through it for some many years before.”
Azan said Curry’s knowledge of the game and what to work on with her swing certainly helped, but what helped her the most was Curry’s encouragement and always knowing the right thing to say to a player at the right time.
“One time I had so much pressure on myself and had a rough day,” Azan said. “He set me aside and said ‘what’s really important, this match or what’s at the end of the semester.’ He has a way of calming you down. It’s not one shot or one tournament, it’s overall improvement.”
For Curry, it wasn’t just about the players who had a chance to qualify for or win the state meet. He remembers all of the players who set foot on a course to represent Smith-Cotton over the years.
“The picture of seeing them hit a golf shot on the range, to know the feeling that they had,” he said. “Each individual, the memories that I have of them, whether they were my best player or weren’t my best player but still put forward the effort.”
Curry golfed himself, an honorable mention All-American his senior year at Central Missouri, and still plans to be around the game that has been a part of his life for 40 years. He stressed that he is not leaving the program, he’ll simply be turning coaching duties over to someone else.
“Never did I envision that it was going to last for 24 years,” he said. “I was a way for me to give back because monetarily there was no way for me to give back everything people had given me.”