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McKay is still making a difference

WARREN, Mich. — So much has changed in the game of golf at the high school level over the past 27 years. But the one constant during all that time … Doug McKay. 

If not for a show of persistence back in the summer of 1994, who knows where the De La Salle Collegiate golf program would be today. As it stands, the Pilots are pretty darn good. And it's all because McKay wanted to make sure the team was going to have a chance to play golf that summer.

McKay recalls a lot of turnover in the athletic department when his son, Kevin ('96) got to the all-boys' school. There were a handful of coaching vacancies at the time. The athletic director position was also unfilled. 

"Kevin came home from school and told me that they didn't have a golf coach," McKay remembered.

So McKay made a call to the school to check on the status of the position in June of that year. No one had been hired. He checked back a month later, but still no word. Two more calls were made in short order. Time was running out. 

"I knew we had to get going. You need uniforms. You need to put together a schedule. So I told Brother Tom, 'I'll coach them,' " McKay recalls. "He asked me how I knew so much about the golf team and I told him, 'They all hang out at my house. Five of them are at my house right now with Kevin.' "

Not long after that conversation, McKay was hired to be the head golf coach. And just days later, Mike Jolly was hired in as the athletic director.

"Mike and I always kid about how I was the best hire he never hired," McKay joked. "I remember when Kevin was getting ready to graduate, Mike kept asking me, 'Are you leaving, are you leaving?' There were rumors that once Kevin graduated, I was going to leave."

Obviously that never happened.

"Well, here I am," said McKay, who despite the spring season being canceled by COVID-19, was still in communication with his 2020 team. "Here I am, and some of the kids I've coached are now doctors, lawyers, and have kids themselves."

This past summer, McKay was inducted into his fourth hall of fame, as the Michigan High School Coaches' Association (MHSCA) honored the long-time coach for a career full of impressive accomplishments. In his 27 seasons with the Pilots, he's put together a 135-53 dual meet record. He's taken his team to the state finals 23 times, won 15 Macomb County championships, three Catholic League championships, won four districts and six regional titles. And nine of his teams have earned academic all-state honors. 

His wife, Linda, daughter Laura, and Kevin, along with assistant coach Dennis Koch, were among those who joined him in Mt. Pleasant for the Sept. 15 ceremony.

"Doug is a hall of fame-caliber coach, not because he can teach players about reading greens or using appropriate clubs on windy days," said Koch, who has coached with McKay for five years now at DLS. "He's not a hall of fame coach because he can fix a slice or a hook.

"Coach McKay is a hall of fame coach because he knows his players so well. He has developed a great relationship with them and he is able to draw the very best out of them. De La Salle hasn't made it to 20-plus state championships on accident. It's because Doug cares about and develops relationships with his players, driving them to be the best that they can be."

All the victories and state finals appearances aside, one of the things McKay is most proud of is the fact that he's remained a Pilot all these years.

"Golf coaches don't last a long time," McKay said. "Back when I started coaching, most golf coaches were considered van drivers. They really didn't coach. I remember at a couple of the first county tournaments I went to, the coaches were out there playing in between holes — in between the groups. You couldn't coach. You could stay in the club house or stand between the nine and 18 and talk to the kids. I said to myself, 'Wow, this can't be what coaching is all about.' 

"I hardly ever take a cart out at any of the tournaments. I'll walk with the kids, even in practices. I carry my bag and walk, and play, jumping in between groups. It's not about Doug McKay. When it becomes about me, I'm giving it up. It is about us being a small team at De La Salle."

In addition to the MHSCA, McKay is also a member of the Detroit Catholic League (2012), Michigan Interscholastic Golf Coaches' Association (2016) and Macomb County Coaches' (2017) halls of fame.

"It's just an honor for me," the coach said. "I thought the MIGCA honor was going to be the last, then I got the letter from the Michigan High School Coaches' Association. I'm not (coaching) for the honors. I'm coaching because I love doing it. If I didn't get in any Hall of Fames, I'd still be a coach.

"I love the honor that De La Salle has stuck with me all these years. That's a huge accomplishment, to stay around for that long."

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