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Utah Golf Legend Karl Tucker Passes Away

Utah Golf Hall of Famer Karl Tucker passed away this afternoon after six months of deteriorating health due to kidney and heart ailments.

Funeral services are pending and a complete obituary will be published soon. Funeral services are expected to be later next week in Orem.

Tucker was one of the most significant figures in Utah golf history. As the golf coach at BYU his teams won 19 Western Athletic Conference golf championships and brought BYU its first national championship in all sports in 1981. 

Many of his players have reached the highest levels of success and have all stayed in touch with him. The loyalty that was generated among the players is perhaps the most marvelous trademark of his career.  

There are few teams of any sport that have spanned a 30-year period where the oldest and youngest all feel the same camaraderie toward one another. There is an attachment among BYU golfers that is truly unusual and Karl was the key to all that. 

Tucker recruited and mentored some of the best golfers in the country, coaching 14 WAC Players of the Year and 13 WAC individual champions. In 1979 and 1980, he coached Bobby Clampett to back-to-back Fred Haskins Collegiate Player of the Year awards. He mentored an amazing 69 All-Americans, including nine first-team honorees. Three of his players went on to become PGA Tour Rookie of the Year — John Fought, Pat McGowan and Keith Clearwater. 

He also coached the legendary Johnny Miller, Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters Champion, and Mike Reid, a two-time major winner on the Champions Tour. 

Recognized as WAC Coach of the Year 13 times, Tucker was voted 1981 NCAA National Coach of the Year by the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA). He has been inducted into the GCAA Golf Coaches Hall of Fame (1983), the Utah Sports Hall of Fame (1992), the SUU Summer Games Hall of Fame (1995), the Utah Golf Hall of Fame (1998) and the BYU Athletics Hall of Fame (2001). 

Among other awards, Tucker received the Dale Rex Memorial Award (given to the person considered to have contributed the most to amateur athletics in Utah); the Utah Golf Association Gold Club Award for outstanding contributions to golf in the state; the Bob Poulsen Award for his role in the success of the University of Utah Hospital Open; and the Rolex Honor Award for his outstanding service and contributions to men’s collegiate golf. 

Bruce Brockbank, who played for Tucker and then succeeded him as the head coach, said, ‘He was my coach, and a friend. He took time for everyone, and as a result he has legions of friends all over the country. He was always helpful and supportive of our efforts to keep the tradition going.’ 

Johnny Miller, Karl’s first All American and most prominent player as winner of both the U.S. Open and British Open, said, “Karl was a great coach. He somehow made players play up to their best abilities.  He put BYU golf on the map. He has a great personality and was a great recruiter. He got people to come to BYU even with the Utah weather. It’s no coincidence that many of his players became touring professionals and excelled on the PGA Tour. I became a better player by being around him and playing on his team. His legacy will live on.” 

Dick Zokol, one of many former Canadian players, said, “It’s a hard thing to lose him, but now is the time to gather around and celebrate a life that benefited all of us.” 

Mike Weir, another Canadian and former Masters Champion who played at BYU during Karl’s last year of coaching, said, “He lived a great life and had a special impact on many, many people, and especially on my life.” 

Mike Reid, one of Karl’s greatest players, and winner of the World Series of Golf and Senior PGA, said, “Karl had an indomitable spirit. To me, he was bigger than life. I thought he could live forever.  When I went to BYU I got a second father.” 

Reed McGregor, president of the UGA, said, “The players have been loyal to Karl and the loyalty has been returned. Even after all these years he has remained close and supportive of the current teams.” 

Thomas Pagel, executive director of the Utah Golf Association, said, “We extend our deepest sympathy and respect to Karl’s family. His contributions to golf in Utah are legendary and his continual support of the UGA have been greatly appreciated over the years.” 

Tucker was born in Orem, Nov. 18, 1926 and lived there his entire life. He graduated from BYU in 1952 and received a Master’s Degree from BYU in 1964. He  married Joanne Eliason in 1952 and they have four  children, Jackie, Shellie, Larry, and Phillip.