Terry Nelson said it was time.
After nearly three decades as head golf coach for the boys and girls programs at Whitefish High School, he has retired.
“I have been kind of leaning that way for a couple years,” Nelson said, “kind of hoping we’d end up with the right person to take over the program.
“I think Tim (Olson) is the right person.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years,” Nelson added, “and that’s probably long enough.”
Olson accepted the head coaching job at WHS in early May.
“I thought it was just a natural, being the head golf professional at Whitefish (Lake Golf Club),” Olson said.
“I played golf for coach Nelson, have a lot of history with the golf program. Now I get the opportunity to coach it. I’m very, very excited.”
Olson has head coaching experience, spending three years with the WHS girls basketball program.
He’s also coached JV boys basketball for six years.
“It will be exciting,” he said.
“I’m so close to all the kids in the program.”
He also has two sons who play — Cooper, who will be a senior, and Cody, a sophomore.
Nelson, the executive secretary at Whitefish Lake Golf Club since 1996, says he’s leaving WHS golf in good shape.
“I’m going out with a really strong group of kids in the program,” he said.
“They should be real competitive. Both boys and girls should be (state) contenders.”
Whitefish won 23 state championships (14 girls and nine boys) with Nelson on the links. He watched five boys claim state medalist honors — Jess Rodman, Hunter Hansen, Reed Platke, Chris Connors and Sam Krause — and three girls — Holli Foster, Reagan Peschel, and Lyndsie Jensen.
“It’s hard to pick out one single thing,” Nelson said of his fondest coaching memory.
“It was fun to be able to coach my own kids. Paula and Matt both played on two state championships.”
Jeremy, his other son, played on one.
Nelson said Connors capturing the medalist title in 2004 was a pretty special event.
“He was on one of the better boys teams we ever had,” Nelson said.
“He was our No. 5 and won state. That says a lot. I doubt if that’s ever happened, or will ever happen again. That was unique.”
Nelson said another coaching highlight was the girls winning seven straight state championships.
Three times, the WHS boys and girls won state titles the same year.
“We never talked about winning,” Nelson said of his coaching philosophy.
“We didn’t set goals to win anything.”
Instead he preached something else.
“Play as well as you can,” he said. “Manage your own game and play smart, which is hard for boys. Play smart to them translates into swing hard. They seem to catch on later.”
With Nelson, it was always team first.
Nelson says he is proud that many of his former players are still close to the game. At one point, he said 15 of them were involved in the golf business at various levels.
“I’ll be there to watch,” he said for the 2012 season in the fall.
“It was a long run, a fun run. I enjoyed every minute of it. I had tremendous support from the school’s staff, the golf course and Whitefish.”