Stan Grove felt it was finally time. It's been 53 seasons, but the Sussex Hamilton boys golf coach has decided to retire, effective at the end of the season.
'It's time for a new face,' Grove said. 'There's never been another (boys) golf coach at Hamilton High School. So I think it's time where we send our program in a different direction. We've had some great teams in the last two, three years. There's some young guys I wanted to hang around with for this last year.'
When Grove started as a teacher at HHS in the fall of 1963, the superintendent at the time, Norm Friess, who was an avid golfer himself, was interested in developing a golf team at HHS. It wasn't a glamorous gig that first year in the spring of 1964. The team transportation was an old beat up station wagon with a white box on top to carry the players' clubs.
As part of the Braveland Conference, Hamilton golfed at Slocum, which is now known as Willow Run Golf Club.
'They were very generous to us,' Grove said. 'I remember for the first two, three years we were able to have all our guys come out there and play golf for $100 a year.'
The program developed as time went on, even with certain limitations.
'We've been up and down,' said Grove, who still golfs with the same foursome twice a week throughout the summers. 'We were always the smallest school in the conference with very few, if any players whose parents belonged to a country club. I would classify them as casual golfers.'
Hamilton's only conference title came in 1986 when Tom Halla was one of the team's leading players. Grove also was the head football coach at HHS for 32 years and spent 46 total years in the program.
'There comes a time, I think, when everyone realizes they've done their stint and it's time for somebody else to carry the program on,' Grove said. 'There was a time in football and now there's a time in golf.'
Halla, who was part of a core group of seniors in 1986 who had won conference titles as freshmen, junior varsity and varsity, credited part of their success for Grove being a golfer himself.
'Stan was a golfer,' Halla said. 'That made a big difference. He loved to play. That helped out immensely. I think initially he was a little unprepared for the fact that there was a class that had that much talent all at once.'
The success of that season changed some minds about the golf program, according to Halla. Grove did a nice job, throughout his career, of relating to everyone around him.
'That's why he excelled in football, why he excelled in the classroom and why he excelled at something so unassuming as golf,' Halla said. 'Is there anybody that doesn't like Stan Grove? I don't know anybody out there. I mean really, who doesn't like Stan Grove, for God's sake. He is the program.'
Halla works at Naga-Waukee War Memorial Golf Course as the clubhouse supervisor and still competes in amateur golf competitions.
'One of the best things is Stan is still in my life,' Halla said. 'Because I work at Naga-Waukee, I see Stan every year. ... He hasn't changed. His enthusiasm has never wavered.'
It's unclear at this point who will take over as head varsity coach, but Grove is confident in the future of the program.
'I think there's several people of which they remain anonymous, but I'm sure there's several people that might be interested in the job,' Grove said. 'We have some nice, young talent coming up and I look forward to seeing that develop from afar.'
Grove, who retired as a full-time teacher in 1997, will continue to substitute teach at Hamilton and be the team manager for boys basketball.
'My heart and soul is certainly in Hamilton High School,' Grove said. 'It will be until there isn't anymore.'