May 3, 2013
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ----- Alan Kaufman, who has guided the UAB men's golf program the past decade and a half while leading the Blazers to unprecedented success, has announced he is retiring as head coach.
The official announcement of Kaufman's retirement came Friday as the veteran head coach wraps up his 15th season at the helm of the men's golf program. He assumed the reins as head coach in 1998 and since then, he has elevated the Blazers to among the top teams in the country.
Kaufman, 76, will remain with the program as Director of Golf and will concentrate on fund-raising and the Shoal Creek Intercollegiate hosted by Graeme McDowell.
Alan Murray, who has been assistant coach for both the men's and women's programs the past three years, will serve as UAB's interim men's head coach. Murray, from Bray, Ireland, was a standout player at the University of Toledo from 1998-2002 and earned all-conference honors with the Rockets. He played on the European Challenge Tour and the Europro Tours before coming to UAB.
"I've been thinking about this for about a year," Kaufman said. "I realized that someday you had to stop, and I also realized with the progress that Alan Murray was making in coaching, it was obvious to me that he was going to take over for me or he was going to end up going somewhere else. He fits in great with the team, they have a lot of respect for him. It's just a natural time to leave."
During Kaufman's tenure as coach, UAB has made seven NCAA Regional appearances, as well as four appearances in the NCAA Nationals. In the program's first berth in the NCAA Championships, in 2001, the Blazers finished 12th in the final standings.
There are numerous program highlights for the Blazers since Kaufman became head coach.
"Obviously, the wins and losses, the successes we've had, the thrills and disappointments will stick in my mind," he said, "but I'm most proud of the many, many golfers who have graduated and moved into the business world. Many of them have married, have had kids and settled in Birmingham.
Kaufman also developed one of the world's top golfers in Graeme McDowell, who was an All-America performer in 2001 and 2002 while becoming UAB's first No. 1-ranked golfer in both collegiate polls, the Golfweek Sagarin Performance Index and the Golfstat Cup rankings. McDowell concluded the 2002 season by being named the recipient of the Fred Haskins Trophy Award, given to the nation's top collegiate golfer,
"Alan has been an instrumental part of our Blazer family for a long time and we are extremely grateful to him for all the contributions he has made to UAB," UAB Director of Athletics Brian Mackin said. "His accomplishments leading our golf program speak for themselves. He has taken the program to new heights and has served as a great example for the players he has coached, both on and off the golf course."
In 2008, Kaufman led UAB to the program's first-ever Conference USA Championship. Zack Sucher, who earned medalist honors at the conference tournament, became the second Blazer golfer to take home the individual title at the C-USA Championship. Garrett Osborn also captured the top individual prize at the 2007 conference event.
The magical 2007-08 season didn't end with the showing at the Conference USA Championship. The Blazers went on to finish fifth at the NCAA East Regional in Chattanooga, Tenn., as Sucher earned co-medalist honors to help lead UAB to the program's third berth to Nationals in history.
Sucher achieved All-America honors for the second time in his career and also was named the Conference USA Golfer of the Year.
A year earlier, Kaufman led the Blazers to an NCAA Regional appearance with Sucher advancing to Nationals as an individual. Sucher made the most of the opportunity as he finished fourth in the standings.
Kaufman made the transition from the business world to a collegiate golf coach for one reason -- Gene Bartow, the Blazers' legendary former athletic director and men's basketball coach.
"That was the reason," Kaufman said. "Gene Bartow and I were good friends and our sons had played basketball against each other. We played some golf together and when Mike Dunphy left (to go to Cleveland Golf), Gene called me and asked me if I was interested in being the golf coach.
"We had respect for each other. When I came in, he left me alone and let me build the program. He was very helpful, gave us more funding and gave us a chance to be where we are today."
After Kaufman became the Blazers' head coach in 1998, it didn't take long for his impact to be felt. UAB finished his first season with three top-five finishes and nine top-10 efforts in 11 tournaments.
In his second season -- 1999-2000 -- under Kaufman's guidance, UAB finished as the C-USA runner-up, posting 10 top-five finishes and earning a spot in an NCAA Regional.
The following season was the Blazers' most successful to date with the 12th place finish at NCAA Nationals. McDowell won two tournaments and was named a Ping All-American, as well being named to the Walker Cup and Palmer Cup teams. Kaufman was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year.
During the 2002-03 season, the Blazers suffered a rash of injuries but despite the misfortune, Kaufman guided his team to one of the program's most impressive turnarounds in school history and the third C-USA runner-up finish in four years.
After the Blazers earned the program's fifth NCAA Regional berth in history in 2004, Kaufman helped lead a young UAB squad to a fourth-place finish at the 2005 conference tournament with Garrett Osborn garnering first-team all-league honors. In 2006, Osborn earned an at-large berth to the NCAA East Regional.
The Blazers were conference runners-up again in 2007 with a strong finish to the regular season. From there, UAB went on to claim an at-large selection to the '07 NCAA East Regional.
The Blazers also qualified individuals for the NCAAs in both 2009 and 2011. Last season, UAB returned to the NCAA field as a team, advancing from regional play to earn a berth in the Nationals.
After another successful season that has included a fourth-place finish last week at the 2013 Conference Championships, the Blazers are expected to be among the NCAA qualifiers when the field is announced next Monday.
Kaufman started playing golf at the age of 11 while growing up in Atlanta, and the sport has remained a strong part of his family since then.
His son, Jeff, played collegiately at LSU in the mid-1980s while his daughter-in-law, Pam, was the head women's golf coach at UAB in the early 1990s. One of Kaufman's grandsons, Smylie, is currently a junior on the golf team at LSU.
After graduating from Grady High School in Atlanta in 1954, he went on to attend LSU where he graduated in 1958. Kaufman moved to Birmingham in 1965 and went to work for Coca-Cola. In 1967, he founded Wall Street Deli, a national sandwich shop chain.
Kaufman and his wife, Pug, have been married for 53 years. They have three children and five grandchildren.