When Scottsdale Community College athletic director Art Becker advertised for a golf coach to guide his defending National Junior College Athletic Association champs, never in his wildest dreams did he think he would end up hiring a former PGA Tour player who is listed among the top golf teachers in the world — as well as a highly successful CEO to boot.
“I was very, very surprised, mainly because I know who he is and what he does in the golf world — not only here in Scottsdale but across the nation,’’ said Becker, who told the Tribune on Wednesday he has hired Shelby Futch to coach the Artichokes.
Why would Futch, who is an original member of Golf Digest Schools and at one time ranked among the top 25 instructors in the country, want to take on a juco golf program, albeit a very successful one?
“I needed a job,’’ kidded Futch, who is the CEO of Scottsdale Golf Group, which owns and operates the two largest golf schools in the world as well as five golf courses in the Valley, including Legend Trail, Painted Mountain and Red Mountain Ranch in the East Valley.
“Seriously, Scottsdale Community College is such a great program, and I already know a lot of the kids that play on the team. They’re great kids, and I’d like to see them succeed both on the course and whatever they decide to do in their personal or professional lives.’’
It certainly wasn’t the money. The job pays less than $5,000 a year. And to that end, Futch said he plans to donate his salary back to the program to make it “bigger and better than it’s ever been.’’
“The program here at SCC has always just kind of worked on its own, because they don’t have any money at that level,’’ Futch pointed out. “We’re trying to get the school some recognition, help them with their fund-raising, and just promote Scottsdale Community College and its golf team.’’
The potential for a junior college dynasty certainly is there. The Artichokes won their 11th national championship last spring, and return three of their top players this season in J.D. Quiney, Kyle Kallan and Rich Sefarian, who was the NJCAA individual champion. In addition, the top recruit in England, Ross Bell, is headed for SCC.
“It’s going to be interesting, but my impression is that Shelby is going to be a hands-on, active college golf coach,’’ said Becker, who ironed out the deal with Futch in the past month after going on a national search.
“Shelby is kind of an older guy like myself, but I think he truly enjoys being around young kids. The big bonus for us is that, besides giving them golf skills, he’ll also give them life skills, and that’s huge.’’
Futch plans to give the Artichokes the best instruction possible, as well as raise money for top-of-the-line equipment. He also plans to provide them access to his golf courses throughout the year — even in peak season.
“I think it’s going to be an excellent partnership,’’ said Futch, noting he will bring all of Scottsdale Golf Group’s other assets to the table. “The bottom line is, we’re going to help them and try to raise the level of the program so they’re first-class and not second-class citizens in golf.’’
Futch has quite a resumé. He graduated with a business degree in economics from Oklahoma State, where he played golf for the Cowboys under legendary coach Lebron Harris. He then played the PGA Tour before helping found the Golf Digest Schools along with Bob Toski, Davis Love Jr., Jim Flick, Peter Kostis and John Jacobs, whom he partnered with in opening the John Jacobs Golf Schools. He has written numerous articles and produced several videos for virtually all major golf publications, and is a frequent guest speaker on the game in Hong Kong and China.
Asked how old he is and how long he plans to coach at SCC, Futch laughed again.
“Well, I’m not a recent graduate of Okie State,’’ he said dodging the first part of the question before adding: “There’s no time frame, really. But I have no intention of retiring soon from any of my interests, of which helping kids is right there at the top.’’
So what brought on such a radical change in vocation?
“If there is a fountain of youth, it is being around kids and their desires and ambitions, and helping them come true,’’ he said.
Futch follows Jon Levy, who retired as SCC coach two months ago to pursue a job with the Scottsdale-based Gateway Tour.