Coach Mike Watney has received many honors during his 34 seasons at Fresno State but the one received in 2007 may be his best. In January of 2007, Coach Watney was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame. When asked about his success, his answer came with no hesitation.
"It's the players and the community. Our team has been blessed with outstanding young men who were also excellent golfers. Fresno State is a truly great school with awesome people and this community is the friendliest place on earth. It is where my family and I want to live and working here has been a joy. I'm humbled, honored and grateful to the GCAA for this award."
As the Fresno State head coach, Mike Watney has established a level of excellence and tradition. From winning conference championships to coaching All-Americans, Watney has propelled Bulldog golf into a nationally prominent, highly competitive golf program.
A 1973 graduate of Fresno State, Watney became the head coach at his alma mater in 1979. In his first season coaching the Bulldogs, he led his team to a conference championship and a 12th place finish at the NCAA Championship, which laid the foundation for future Bulldog golf success. The 1987 season was one of Watney's finest, as his Bulldog squad was named the Jones Sport Co. Most Improved Team in the Nation after finishing the season ranked third nationally and placing ninth at the NCAA Championship.
In 1994, Watney coached a five-man lineup comprised of two juniors, two sophomores and one freshman that won Fresno State's first golf WAC Championship and saw former `Dogs Joe Acosta and Jon Bettencourt finish first and second. The Bulldogs went on to tie for second place at the NCAA West Regional.
Throughout his time at Fresno State, Watney has tutored 29 All-Americans. His squads have captured 13 conference championships, including six consecutive titles from 1986 through 1991. He led his team to Western Athletic Conference titles in 1994, 2000 and 2003. His teams have qualified for the NCAA Championships 25 times in the 29 years of his career. Watney led his 1990 squad to the best finish in Fresno State golf history - a fifth place showing at the NCAA Championships.
The members of Watney's golf teams have succeeded academically as well. Since 1989, 17 All-American Scholars have been named under him. In addition to coaching numerous Academic All-WAC honorees, he tutored 1996 Academic All-American John Barrington.
Watney's influence on collegiate golf has brought the NCAA Championships to Fresno in 1983 and the NCAA Western Regional as well in 2000. A member of the Professional Golf Association for 18 years, Watney has numerous coaching honors to his name. He was chosen as the 2006 inductee into the GCAA Hall of Fame. He was named the Southwest Region Coach of the Year in 2002. In 1996, 2000 and 2003, he was honored with WAC Coach of the Year. He earned Big West Coach of the Year honors six times in the 1980s and was named NCAA District VIII Coach of the Year for the first time in 1987, and then again in 1994.
Watney also is recognized internationally, serving as a liaison between Japanese and U.S. golf. He accompanies six of the United States' best collegiate golf teams (four men's and two women's) to Japan annually. As the tournament director of the Topy Cup, Watney is in charge of everything from pairings to competition rules. He has served as chairman of this now prestigious tournament since 1996. He also has welcomed a miniature tournament with Keio University in Japan for the last few years.
Many of the players Watney has produced have gone on to succeed on the PGA Tour and throughout the golf profession. Former Bulldogs and brothers Kevin and David Sutherland are experienced PGA Tour players. Watney's nephew Nick, a three-time All-American who also played golf for Fresno State, is a rising star on the PGA Tour who captured the 2004 Nationwide Tour Championship. Todd Rose, Joe Acosta and Tim Loustalot, all students under Watney, also went on to play professionally. There are also numerous former Bulldog golfers who work at Valley courses, including Mike Paniccia, Mike Schy, Ed Luethke, Eric Peterson, Paul Wightmen, Ken Collins and Todd Hansen.
While attending Fresno State as a student, Watney was a golf standout who earned honorable mention All-American honors in 1973 as well as first-team all-conference accolades. Watney is also a 1969 graduate of Bullard High School in Fresno where he competed in football and golf.
After graduating from Fresno State, Watney served as an Assistant Golf Professional at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, Calif. One year later, he returned to Fresno and served as an Assistant Golf Professional at Belmont Country Club. He then joined the PGA Tour in 1978, where he had two mini-tour victories and several top finishes.
Watney and his wife Paula have four children, Josh, Kelly, Heidi and Dustin. Josh, played golf for Fresno State from 1997-2000. Watney was born Jan. 6, 1951, in Los Angeles.