‘He’s not a farmer. He’s a golf pro’

Butler men’s golf coach Bill Mattingly talks with senior Patrick Allgeier during a competition last season. Photo courtesy of Butler golf on Twitter.

DREW FAVAKEH | STAFF REPORTER | dfavakeh@butler.edu 

Butler men’s golf coach Bill Mattingly sits behind his office desk in the Athletic Annex, recounting memories of the 22-acre Zionsville farm where he and his wife, Maureen, raised four boys. The Mattingly’s owned this farm for 30 years before selling it this September, and when he talks about the good times there, his eyes well with tears, which he periodically conceals with his long black Nike sleeve.

There was the time one of his sons caught a wild opossum and caged him in the garage — dubbing him Frank; Frank the opossum — and of course the games his sons played on the basketball court in the barn’s loft, which was built by his two brothers.

“Things change,” he said. “You’re creating your own new memories.”

Mattingly has gone through a whirlwind of changes this year, including stepping down as coach of the Butler women’s golf team, a position he had held since coming to Butler in 2007.

Of the 44 total tournaments and four conference tournaments Mattingly has won as a coach at Butler, the women’s team has accounted for 25, and three, respectively. How does he leave behind that success?

Ask Mattingly this question and he’ll delve into an assortment of reasons. First, after four years as a Butler player and two years as an assistant, Christie Cates — who was named women’s golf coach in June — was ready to lead a team. Plus, it gives him more time to focus on the men’s team.

Keep listening … and eventually, you’ll hear a third — and most important — reason: more time with his 11 grandchildren, 10 of whom are girls.

“I go to a lot of games,” Mattingly said. “City-wide championship is tomorrow. My only grandson, Jack, is a chess player. Seen most of them play basketball, seen way too many baseball games, seen softball. It’s interesting. You ever see a 4-year-old soccer game? Three year old? They just run right into the net if they get the score.”

The men’s team occasionally practices and trains with the women’s team, and during those times, Mattingly confers with Cates. But more often, when the coaches get together, their conversation veers to family.

“He says, ‘Oh, I’m going to this kickball game, or I’m going to this basketball game,’” Cates said. “So I could really tell he’s enjoying this family time he’s been able to spend with his sons and grandkids. He’s super close with his family, big family guy.”

Golf: A humble love

Mattingly used to lease out a portion of the family farm — the crops — to a farmer. Rarely, too, did he use the chicken coops or horse stables. Instead, he spearheaded passion projects, like the small golf shop on the side of the barn, a safe-haven for his golf memorabilia and golf clubs.

“I don’t want to give you the wrong impression,” his son Dan Mattingly said. “Dad couldn’t grow you a f—— daisy. He’s not a farmer. He’s a golf pro.”

Bill played two years at Ball State, winning varsity letters in 1971 and 1972, then quit because he “didn’t like school.” Golf — all day, every day, ever since he picked up a club at six years old.

“At my first communion, all I really wanted to do was get done and go to the golf course at 6,” Mattingly said. “I was just hooked on it.”

Mattingly stopped playing a few years back. Nowadays, it’s difficult to spot that tiny white sphere spiraling through the air — his vision is far from 20/20, he admitted. The 1983 state PGA champion is still in there, somewhere, though. Aware of his athletic limitations, a kinship with an age-friendly sport revs his mental engine.

“I watch these guys, they would whoop the hell out of me,” Mattingly said. “But golf is neat. You can still play, at any level. If I really practiced, I’m not gonna beat ’em, but I could at least be competitive with ’em.”

As the assistant golf pro at South Grove golf course from 1981 to 1992, he’d see Cathedral High School’s golf team practice. Curious, Mattingly asked their coach if there was room for another coach. It so happened that Cathedral’s golf coach retired the next year.

This was back when high school coaches were typically teachers with a hobby, he said, so when Cathedral’s players heard about his interest, they told their fathers: “We have a chance to get a golf pro as our coach!”

At least, that’s what he remembers them thinking. In 18 years, Mattingly guided Cathedral High School to 32 invitational titles and six state championship appearances, yet Mattingly recalls that Cathedral finally captured the state title a year after his departure.

“I always laugh because you know we’d lose to somebody and say, ‘Well, that golf pro thing didn’t work out so well,’” he said. “I coached Cathedral for 18 years, then the 19th year, they won a state championship. So there’s my coaching talents.”

Those coaching talents led the Butler men’s golf team to a second-place Big East finish in the spring season, its best since joining the conference.

42 years of stories and advice

Through 42 years of coaching golf, Mattingly has enough stories that he’ll precede them with: “I might’ve told you this before…”

“It’s always fun to re-hear the story of when he was playing,” said Butler golfer Patrick Allgeier, who is sixth in Big East scoring average. “If he was playing well in a tournament, I was doing this, then would do that.”

He’ll tell his players he finished third in the state championship when actually he finished sixth.

“They ask, ‘Really?'” Mattingly said. “And I say, ‘Yeah, because you can’t look it up.'”

One of his favorite stories strikes a chord with coach Cates: his father, Bill Mattingly Sr. once caddied for Babe Zaharias, who won 10 LPGA major championships.

“I could appreciate [the story] because I was a female athlete myself,” Cates said. “I always like hearing that one.”

Some elicit chuckles, others inspire, but mostly, he spins internal regrets into explicit advice. Because he feels remorse over quitting his junior year at Ball State, he’ll encourage his players to stay in school, even doing so much as helping senior Logan Sabins obtain a master’s degree.

Mattingly doesn’t play golf, but he does read “way too much golf s—.” He finds it fascinating, reading about different golfers, how they succeeded. Recently, he came across what he recalls was a Billy Collins quote: “All your knowledge is kind of like a bookshelf.” Growing older knocks the next book down — the position Mattingly finds himself in.

Hurriedly, he relays information from several of his favorite books — the little green book, the little red book, and the little blue book by Harvey Penick, a former professional golfer-turned-author.

“If they do know the history of the game, then they can learn a little bit out of it,” Mattingly said. “I don’t know if you want to know everybody’s golf swing theory. Don’t want to over-coach, but if you read a little bit about it, this guy got better doing this or this guy got better doing this, then you can learn.”

Through thick and thin

The truth is, the Bulldog players don’t always heed his advice. Golf is woven by independent threads. Where Mattingly is a course manager, Allgeier is an aggressive golfer. 

Take one hole in the Bobby Nichols Invitational last season. Allgeier’s ball was 20 yards away from the hole, buried under the sand trap. Mattingly suggested keeping it grounded. Allgeier instead elevated a chip shot. Mattingly was right; Allgeier faced a downhill shot rather than an uphill shot.

“After that hole, he was kinda saying, ‘Try to hit the shot a different way so when you hit the follow-up shot, you’re going back up the hill, not down,’” Allgeier said. “It’s little stuff like that, that he sees because he’s not in the moment, he’s not thinking of how I’m playing, or how’s the team doing, that he can help. Keeps level headed if people get out of hand on the course.”

There was another hole — the par-5 17th hole to be exact — in last season’s Big East tournament at Callawassie Island. The ball rested a foot-and-half below Allgeier’s feet. Mattingly suggested an iron. Allgeier opted for a two-iron. This time, Allgeier was right; the ball bounced a few feet from the hole.

“I kind of laughed at him and said, ‘I can do this, I got this,’” Allgeier said. “Then I hit the shot and laughed at him. And he said, ‘Huh, I guess you do have it.’”

Through thick and thin, good or bad shot, Mattingly sticks with his players. One time, four years ago, Mattingly walked alongside senior Joey Arcuri for 14 of the 18 holes in his final tournament. That was a special occasion, of course, but he regularly induces positivity through his coaching habits.

After a player hits a tee shot, Mattingly says, “C’mon, get after it,” followed by a particular earmark: clapping a closed fist with an open palm. When his team is struggling, he gathers them after rounds, letting them know “we’re leakin’ oil.”

“He’s not mad at us or anything, he sees our potential and what we can be,” Allgeier said. “He hopes with all the learning experience that we have, that the next time, we don’t make those same mistakes.”

The Mattingly sons, raised through golf

On the family farm, Bill Mattingly would stumble upon golf balls hit by his four sons. Mattingly assumed as much because they played golf. All day. Every day.

Next to the farm was the Zionsville Golf Course, the boys’ go-to spot. And then there was the Supreme Driving Range in Carmel, which Mattingly owned from 1992 to 2003. There, the Mattingly sons would work as retail store clerks or as range-pickers.

“It’s fun to ride the tractor for the first time,” Bill Mattingly said. “But it’s not so cool when your dad used to make you pick the balls hand-out-of-holes and stuff when it’s 20 degrees.”

That’s not to say Mattingly pressed his kids; he didn’t. He allowed them to choose whichever sport suited their fancy. Once they did so, Mattingly did not demand effort so much as expect accountability — a laissez-faire method he employs to this day.

“I think any sport, anybody that really likes it, the ones who love it, you don’t have to push ’em,” he said. “Their practice is how they get better. That’s just me. Pushing somebody is not gonna really make ’em. They gotta want it.”

Golf, of course, seemed like destiny. Mattingly tried coaching basketball — fifth and sixth graders in a Zionsville park district league — and despite having the best team, his team ended in last place. To no surprise, then, his sons, Charlie, Dan, and Pete, played golf at Cathedral High School. Dan’s golf career lasted longest, as he played four years at Loyola University Chicago.

“He always struck a good balance,” Dan said. “Dad’s a really good course manager. I bet there are some coaches, with tenure, the success, the experience, who are better swing technicians. But I always remember him being able to add a lot of value around thinking your way. That sort of course management decisions.”

Mattingly coached Dan, Charlie, and Billy, from the time they were seven years old, local juniors at the city tournament, until their senior seasons at Cathedral High School. Before he left Cathedral for Butler in 2003, Bill asked his youngest son, Pete, a freshman at the time, if he would be upset if he left, to which he responded “no.”

As such, Pete’s favorite sport became football, which he ended up playing for Butler from 2008 to 2012. After earning All-Pioneer League honors his senior season, Pete played for one season with the Nice Dauphins, a French team in Europe’s second division. At first, Pete considered declining the offer, but a phone call from Bill — in which he told him he’d be a “fool” to bypass the offer — changed his mind.

‘To Thine Own Self be True’

Bill Mattingly Sr. didn’t grow up on the farm, nor did he raise Bill on the farm, but he sowed in his sons and grandsons the seeds of curiosity, humbleness and self-drive.

Raised by his father and another woman — his mother died when he was eight — Bill Mattingly Sr. grew up in a family of eight siblings (one adopted). Despite living in circumstances described as “less than ideal” on the westside of Indianapolis, Bill Sr. blossomed.

After graduating from Washington High School, he enlisted in the Navy for two years as a sailor. He graduated from Butler University in 1952 and later became the principal at Washington High School for over 40 years. He caddied at Highland Golf Course for a brief stint, and that’s how he got into golf, but this story isn’t about that. 

To his sons and grandsons, he was “Papaw Mattingly.”

“He would drop anything to do something for his family,” Charlie Mattingly said. “That’s a trait we got from him and got from my dad. So treating family with the utmost loyalty, but treating every person with kindness and dignity. He was the embodiment of the golden rule; very good, honest, hard-working person.”

Coming home, Papaw Mattingly would recite quotes from Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill. “Everything is better in moderation, especially moderation” and “If I had more time I would write a shorter letter.”

Before he passed away in 2013, Papaw Mattingly bequeathed to Charlie his teaching copies of Shakespeare. Highlighted in Hamlet was part 1, section 3: “To thine own self be true.”

Charlie has those words tattooed on his shoulder. Bill has them ingrained in his future.

“I don’t know when I want to retire, my wife would tell ya: probably never.”


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