Pete McClure, a 1993 Whitman College graduate and a self-described ‘late comer’ that ‘bounced around a little bit,’ commenced a 15-year career as men’s golf coach at his alma mater following a meeting at an appropriate venue.
It began after a chat with former coach Jim Mastin at a local driving range.
“I asked him if I could do something to help the golf team and he said, ‘Yeah,’” said McClure, a railroad worker at the time. “Jim was getting ready to retire and (ex-athletic director) Max Seachris asked me if I’d like to do it. It started from there.”
Whitman was transitioning from the NAIA’s Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges to NCAA Division III. McClure, once retired from railroad duty, “coached full-time. Max said, ‘Do as much or as little as you want.’”
One of McClure’s goals was to get a women’s program functioning at Whitman.
“A campus email was sent out and we ended up with four women from the Far East that had never touched a golf club,” McClure said. “At tournaments, I thought to myself, ‘How do you coach them?’
“(Current women’s coach) Skip (Molitor) and I did it together,” McClure said, “and it was much better.”
McClure said he and Molitor “bonded when we got together.
“It was great being with him,” McClure said. “His memory still astounds me.”
Two of McClure’s best players were Geoff Burks and Brian Barton. Barton was individual medalist in the 2010 Northwest Conference tourney and Burks won the Whitman Invite in 2014.
“I told (Burks) to ‘keep going and feel the buzz,’” McClure said. “Geoff was an avid golfer. He had good equipment and worked hard. He was great.
“With four holes left, Brian told me he was going to birdie out,” McClure said. “He was something.”
Barton played in multiple amateur tournaments locally, McClure said.
Perhaps his crowning achievement was carding a second-round 65 on his way to winning the 2018 Washington Mid-Amateur tournament.
McClure’s personal proficiency in the sport improved with time. He is a two-time Vererans Memorial Golf Course club champion and has finished “in the top 20 percent” of all the Walla Walla All-City tournaments he has competed in.
Jim Beard, once a perennial All-City contender, introduced McClure to high-level golf.
“He played at the University of Washington,” McClure said. “He was the best player in town. He was the man. He’s another one of those life-long friends.”
There seems to be little doubt that the word golf is the first that pops in people’s minds when talking about Pete McClure.
“It was a tremendous thing for me to finish my degree at 49 and step into the golf program,” McClure said. “I’ve played with all my heart and still do. I still have desire and strength. Golf nourishes my soul and body. It’s wonderful.”