Daniel Jennevret was homesick.
It was the middle of winter in Fort Worth—not a snowflake in sight, high 70s, green grass—a far cry from winter in his native Sweden with its four-feet-deep snowfall, below freezing temperatures and 15 hours of darkness.
To assuage his homesickness, Jennevret, a senior on the TCU men’s golf team, pursued the counsel of a reliable support system: his coach, Bill Montigel.
Montigel, then in his 24th year as men’s golf coach, asked Jennevret a question in response: “Would you rather be (in Fort Worth) or there?” Montigel asked.
Eli Cole, a redshirt senior on the team, said he remembers that moment well.
“[Montigel] said, ‘Would you rather play here, where the grass is green, where it’s warm, where you can play on different courses?’” Cole said, reminiscing.
Montigel is in his 34th year coaching at TCU—25 in golf and nine in basketball.
He said the approach he took with Jennevret that day is the same he’s taken his whole coaching career.
He knew the team’s spring 2012 grade point average off the top of his head—it was 3.2.
His relationships with players don’t end when they graduate—he still receives Christmas cards from players who played a decade ago.
And when it comes to the practice field, he pays close attention to each of his player’s games.
He’s slow to correct, though, Cole said.
“He’ll ask you certain questions to help you find (the mistake) yourself,” Cole said. “He won’t tell us what to do, but he might say something after the round and give you some advice.”
That approach has left a lasting effect with his players, they said.
“He’s by far the best coach I’ve had,” Cole said.
“You can’t compare him to other coaches, in our opinion,” Jennevret said, to the agreement of sophomore Sarosh Adi.
“For that, you can’t repay him,” Cole added.
Montigel said it’s all about consistent fairness: regardless of his team’s makeup, he wants to provide his players with an opportunity.
“I’ve tried to give a lot of different guys a chance,” he said. “That looks different year-by-year, but I still try to do it.”
For instance, the team had a seven-round qualifier before the fall season started and will have a spring qualifier to choose its fifth traveling player for the spring season.
Fifteen players showed up this fall, he said.
From that group, Montigel found Michael Culin, a redshirt freshman who played at University of California-Berkeley last year.
Culin was the team’s fifth traveling player for the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational in October.
Despite all of his time as a Division I golf coach, Montigel said he actually "stumbled upon" golf long ago.
Basketball was his first sport—he played collegiately at Idaho State and followed Jim Killingsworth, his college coach, to Oklahoma State in 1977 as a graduate assistant.
When Killingsworth got the job at TCU two years later, he hired Montigel on as an assistant.
Montigel said his assistant coaching position brought with it one of the highlights of his coaching career—Jamie Dixon’s 38-foot buzzer-beater that beat Texas in the 1987 Southwest Conference championship.
“Anytime you win something like that, in that kind of fashion, you kind of say, ‘how did that happen?’” Montigel said.
But summer recruiting rules changed in college basketball, so Montigel and his fellow assistants took up golf as a way to pass the time.
What was first a hobby became what Montigel called an obsession—he said he was infatuated with improving himself as a golf player. Eventually, as he improved as a golf player, athletics officials took notice and offered him the head golf coach position.
Today, Montigel’s coaching resume reads as follows: 23 straight regional golf appearances, eight golf conference championships and two basketball conference champions.
“A lot of people don’t know I’ve got 10 rings,” he said.
With more than three decades of coaching experience at the same university, Montigel said he’s seen a progression in his relationships within the TCU and Fort Worth communities.
As he’s made connections in the golf world, this has manifested itself in the form of access to some of the nation’s best courses, which happen to be located in Fort Worth. At the top of that list is Colonial Country Club, Montigel said.
But golfers like to play on a variety of courses, he said. They like to maneuver a series of fairways. They want to teach themselves how to avoid bunkers. And some putting greens are “faster” than others—the ball moves more rapidly depending on the smoothness of the surface.
He uses this aspect of the game to his advantage when it comes to recruiting, he said.
The team practices at Colonial Country Club and Ridglea and Woodhaven golf courses on a weekly basis.
With the addition of a schedule that Montigel called the best in college golf and access to top-rate facilities, the team’s national championship aspirations don’t seem too far off.
Cole said Montigel has been successful because he has focused on encouraging his players.
“That’s the number one thing he looks for in us—positive attitude,” Cole said.
Montigel said he encourages his players because he wants to give them a chance to succeed.
“I think the key to everything I do is that I try to surround myself with really good people,” he said.
And sometimes that just means putting things in perspectives for one of his players.