Since 1984, Rick Hardison has called Plano ISD home. He takes pride in nearly four decades spent coaching in the same school district, including 20-plus as the head golf coach at Plano West.
Hardison recently coached the Wolves to an appearance at the Class 6A state tournament and has confidence the program can get back to Georgetown with the majority of its lineup intact. But when West’s 2021-22 campaign begins, it’ll be under new leadership following Hardison’s decision to retire.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a little while. I knew I was getting close,” Hardison said. “Thirty-seven years is a lot, especially at one job. I’m pretty proud of that aspect, to have never moved around and just being able to spend all 37 years here in Plano ISD. I felt like it was time.
“It’ll give me a chance to do some things that my wife and I will enjoy — some traveling, hunting, fishing and obviously playing some golf. It’s time for some new blood to be infused into the program.”
The only head golf coach in West’s history, Hardison developed the Wolves into a perennial state qualifier and a multi-time state championship program. Under Hardison, West’s boys team captured UIL state titles in 2008 and 2016 and had three players capture individual championships — Jeff Bell in 2002, Travis McInroe in 2016 and Parker Coody in 2017.
The Wolves have had plenty of recent success at the state tournament, placing second in 2017 and third in 2015. On the girls side, West isn’t far removed from it best-ever run at state after taking second in 2019.
Hardison has been the constant through it all, a fixture in PISD athletics since the 1980s when he made his way through the feeder system at the middle school ranks. Hardison broke into the school district by coaching at Carpenter Middle School and Schimelpfenig Middle School before bumping up a rung to Shepton High School. At Shepton, Hardison recalls coaching ninth-grade football and track.
Coaching basketball and even weightlifting along the way, Hardison’s first taste of the high school links came at Plano as the Wildcats’ junior varsity golf coach. He held that post for three years until West opened in 1999.
“You had a pretty good idea where the split was going to be with the attendance zones and that this could be an area that generated a lot of talent,” Hardison said. “You’ve got a lot of kids who are country club members at places like Gleneagles, Prestonwood and Stonebriar, so we felt like that would the place to go.”
Hardison admitted early on that he didn’t know if he “had a chance” with no prior head coaching experience. He managed to build the program up from the ground floor, developing relationships with nearby country clubs that steadily became outlets where his players could practice weekly if need be.
“I think they saw that I was going to be a person who monitored the kids and made sure they were acting right and learning how to behave on a golf course,” Hardison said. “We’ve been really thankful for what’s been a 22- or 23-year relationship with Gleneagles. Of course, Pecan Hollow has been super to us as well.”
It’s helped steady the Wolves among the state’s elite — a familiar position the program occupied this past season, winning district and regional championships en route to an eighth-place team finish at state. West’s effort was paced by a top-10 individual finishes for freshman Alex Huang (fifth) and junior Matt Comegys (seventh).
Both are projected to return next season alongside fellow state qualifier and junior Jayden Song, the Wolves will bring back the majority of its lineup — offering an experienced base for whoever takes over for Hardison.
“You’ve got three boys returning out of the top five. With our girls, we’ve got all five coming back as well,” Hardison said. “We lost quite a few key players from our girls team last year, so this year was a little more rebuilding, so it’ll be good to have everyone back next year. Hopefully we have some younger ones come into the program to build some depth and can hopefully get back to state.”
If another trip to Georgetown is in the cards, the Wolves can count on their former coach’s support.
“If they make it, I’ll certainly be there cheering them on,” he said.