B-CU Mourns Passing of Former Golf Coach Gary Freeman
Former Bethune-Cookman University Golf Head Coach Dr. Gary Freeman led the Wildcats to 12 national titles, passed away Tuesday morning. He was 78.
The PGA Professional who had a Ph. D. in education administration guided the Wildcat women to eight National Minority College Golf Championships and the men's team to four. He established a program that gained world-wide prominence, drawing numerous international golfers to attend B-CU.
"He was the architect of our golf program and a Godsend to Bethune-Cookman University," said B-CU Athletic Director Lynn W. Thompson. "His 12 years were great ones that left the strongest of foundations for our efforts to continue a winning golf program. The B-CU athletics family offers its prayers and support to his family."
Loritz Clark succeeded Dr. Freeman last season, but already had a long-standing relation with his predecessor.
"I knew Gary for 25 years and he was a mentor to me and more," Clark said, "When he started at B-CU, he was someone I looked up to because he was one of only a few African-American PGA professionals at the time. He was an inspiration for me to get my PGA membership. I used him as a sounding board and a tremendous resource during my first season."
Dr. Freeman's influence remains strong with his players.
"Coach Freeman means the world to me," said freshman Emanuel Petrich, "I just remember when I came down here for my visit, we had dinner and he told me he was saving a scholarship for me. My thought was `Why would you save it for me? There are plenty of good golfers out there.'"
"He told me that he knew I was dedicated and that I would work hard and I would make him and the team proud," Petrich continued. "That's what I'm trying to do now every time I play. I will always remember that dinner. I'm sad that I won't be able to see him one more time."
"He gave me an opportunity to play collegiate golf," said Maria Garrido, currently a graduate assistant coach at B-CU. "I'm the person I am today because of him."
Dr. Freeman was a 15-year member of the Professional Golfers Association of America. He was PGA head professional at Palm Harbor Golf Club.
"Whenever you think Bethune-Cookman University golf, you think of Dr. Freeman, who was synonymous with success and an inspiration to the young people he coached," said Earnie Ellison, the PGA's of America's Director of Business and Community Relations. "Dr. Freeman represented PGA Professionals and The PGA of America so well at the collegiate level. He will be dearly missed."
A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Dr. Freeman was a graduate of Morgan State College and received his doctorate from Catholic University of America.
Dr. Freeman is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jean, and four daughters -- Jacqueline Freeman, Michelle Freeman, Nicole Freeman Sloan and Monica Freeman as well as four grandchildren -- Raymond Williams, Candyce Nedd, Aja Freeman Bennett and "Sweetpea", Christina Sloan – and two great grandchildren - Kidada Bowden and Richard Costen.
A gathering of friends will meet to honor Dr. Freeman on Friday, April 22 from 3 to 5 p.m. followed by a memorial service at 5 p.m. in the Chapel at Lohman Funeral Home in Palm Coast, Florida.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Dr. Freeman's name to the B-CU golf program. Call Coach Clark at 386-481-2247 for more information.
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About Bethune Cookman University:
Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement. B-CU offers more than 40 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of more than 4,000. For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.