The End of an Era
Whoever said golf stands for “gentleman only, ladies forbidden” must never have met Sandy Sackmann, Pinecrest teacher and one of the most successful golf coaches in the state.
Sackmann, who taught for 41 years, retired at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. She spent her first 15 years teaching at a middle school in Ohio. From there, she moved to Moore County and taught at Aberdeen Middle School until spending the last 15 years of her career at Pinecrest High School.
While being a teacher may have not been her ideal career, she was happy with her decision. “When I went to college, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for women other than nursing and teaching,” she said. “I don’t do blood well.”
However, she did do extremely well with the golf team during her time as coach. Hers was one of only two teams to make it to the state championship for 13 years in a row — quite the accomplishment considering only 12 teams from the state make it to this level of competition.
“It’s not an easy thing,” she said, “and my guys have done that for the past 13 years.”
Sackmann’s love for golf developed late in life. Her family would often visit Pinehurst while on vacation, something she attributes to her fondness for the game. Although her father taught her brothers how to play, he did not school her or her sister in the grand old game.
“My father did not believe women should be on a golf course,” she said.
Sackmann’s husband played a key role in introducing her to becoming a golfer. On one Fourth of July weekend, he was having trouble finding someone to play with, so she decided to go with him. He let her use his father’s clubs.
“After nine holes, I walked in to the pro shop and bought a set of golf clubs,” she said. From then on, she played as often as she could, but her coaching career took a little longer to materialize.
At one point, the teacher who coached before her was attending graduate school and needed help with the team, so he asked her for assistance.
“I said ‘sure,’ and that was sort of how it started,” she said. “I think my talent and qualifications as a coach came from my love for the game.”
Sackmann enjoys working with student-athletes. “They are usually intelligent and thoughtful because they have to figure out how to approach each course,” she said. “I certainly don’t go out there and tell them how to play.”
While most players have swing coaches, Sackmann is there to help beginners and to handle the logistical side of running the team. She said being organized helps her with this.
According to Sackmann, she would have taught and coached another year before retiring had the recent schedule changes to the start time of the school day for Moore County high schools not occurred.
On the day Principal Joel County told the staff about the schedule change, Sackmann said Pinecrest athletic director Ernie Purnsley had told coaches at an earlier meeting the change was not going to be made.
“I had just been informed that schedule change wasn’t going to happen,” she said of the announcement. “I was very frustrated, but I had no control over it.”
One of her concerns was the effect the change would have on the golf team. Golf requires daylight, so it would be next to impossible to practice in the morning like other teams are considering doing.
“I understand that the change will help the budget, but I’m very concerned about our golf program,” she said. “We can barely get nine holes in as it is.”
Her time as a coach may have been cut short, but Sackmann is still able to look back at the good times she has had.
“There are so many memories,” she said, “but honestly, winning (both) men’s and women’s state championships is the most memorable. I’m the only 4A coach to have had that pleasure.”
Sackmann thanked the Pinehurst Country Club for their support for the team. The Pinecrest golf teams have never had to pay to practice at the course. “They always made facilities available at no cost,” she said. “I think that’s very important.”
She had nothing but praises for the students that she coached over the years. Students were disappointed to see her go, and Sackmann received several phone calls from former students and parents of seniors. They expressed their gratitude for her work and dismay over her departure.
“It’s been a pleasure to watch them play and be a part of their lives,” she said of her golfers. “They’re very understanding simply because they’re great kids.”
Contact Leigh Pember at pember@ email.unc.edu.
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