Dick McGuire loved New Mexico’s mountains, he loved its spicy chile, and he loved corny jokes from anywhere — the cornier the better.
And he loved the game of golf.
It loved him back.
“He was not only a father figure, but a mentor,” said Sam Zimmerly, who played McGuire for UNM in the early 1960s and went on to a long career as an Albuquerque golf professional. “He opened the door to golf for us, career-wise.”
McGuire, the University of New Mexico’s men’s golf coach from 1954-77 and its director of golf for another decade, died Friday. He was 90.
Born in Mangum, Okla., McGuire grew up in Vaughn and Santa Rosa before coming to Albuquerque with his family in 1941. A graduate of Albuquerque High, he played golf at UNM for coaches George Petrol and John Dear.
After winning two state titles as the golf coach at Highland High School, he took over for Dear as UNM’s coach in 1954.
How successful was he? From 1957-66, his teams won 10 straight league titles, six in the Skyline Conference, four in the Western Athletic.
Though a fine golfer himself, Zimmerly said, McGuire’s success as a coach came not so much from his instructional skill but from his talent as a recruiter and motivator.
“If you win, the players want to play for you,” Zimmerly said. “I know when I had a choice of different schools, I came to UNM because coach got his teams to the NCAA Championships every year and played in the best tournaments.”
In 1977, McGuire retired as UNM’s coach and handed the reins to Dwaine Knight, who had played for McGuire as a Lobo. A decade later, Knight left for UNM and was succeeded for John Fields, who had played for Knight.
Fields, now the highly successful men’s golf coach at the University of Texas, didn’t play for McGuire but feels his influence to this day.
“He was always there for you if you needed him,” Fields said. “… I was definitely tuned into him, and, for sure, I got to be around him by being around so many of his former players that were so instrumental in continuing to keep the UNM program alive.”
Among those McGuire pupils, to mention a few: Zimmerly, Joe McDermott, Guy and Herb Wimberly, Bob Meiering, Henry Sandles, Vic Kline — all of whom have made their livings from the game of golf.
As college coaches, both Knight and Fields have won national titles — Knight with UNLV in 1998, Fields at Texas in 2012.
As UNM’s director of golf, McGuire is the man primarily responsible for the construction of UNM South, now known as the Championship Golf Course at the University of New Mexico.
“The University had this section of land out here (south of Gibson, east of I-25) and was getting ready to spend $450,000 on the North Course.” McGuire said in a 2016 interview with UNM communication and marketing. “I said ‘Wait a minute, why don’t you put your money into a new golf course out here?'”
UNM South, Fields said, “Is really what put New Mexico on the cutting edge of success with regards to collegiate golf.”
McGuire’s daughter, Kathy, said her father always managed to make time for his family and for other interests besides golf.
“He loved the mountains — hiking, backpacking,” she said. “He taught me such an appreciation for nature.
And, she said, “He was the king of the corny joke.”
McGuire is survived by his daughters, Rikki and Kathleen. His wife, Margie, died in 2007. His eldest daughter, Ellen, died in 2009.
A visitation is scheduled for Friday from 4:30-6:30 at French Funerals, 1111 University NE. Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church-Bosque Farms.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions should be mailed the UNM Foundation to benefit the Dick McGuire Memorial Golf Fund.