Steve Nosler: A legacy in golf

By Ron Bellamy | Golf, Oregon |

Steve Nosler didn’t want a memorial service. Fair enough, but golf in Oregon certainly will find a way to ensure that this patron of the game is remembered.

Whether the University of Oregon names a golf tournament in his memory, or enhances the scholarship already established in his name — fitting for the gentleman who raised so much money for the program — or whether amateur golf associations honor him in some way, know that no gesture will be too much.

“The impact for this department and for the golf community is unparalleled,” said Jim Bartko, UO senior associate athletic director. “It’s a sad loss. Oregon golf would not be where it is today without the passion of coach Nosler. He’ll have a lasting impact on many of us.”

The former Oregon men’s coach, who died July 6 at age 74, loved the game and the people who played it, especially the golfers who played for him during his 14 years coaching the Ducks, part of a 20-year career with the program that included serving as assistant coach and director of operations.

“He was so loyal to all the players that played for him,” said Al Mundle, Nosler’s former assistant coach. “He kept track of them after they left, and he kept track of them while playing at Oregon, and he made sure they took care of scholastic responsibilities. …

“And if they were out of line, he let them know it. Sometimes they’d say, ‘He was sure grumpy.’ Well, he was only grumpy if they deserved it. But in the long run, they learned from that.”

Nosler’s reach went beyond the Ducks. He served on the Oregon Golf Association executive committee for more than 20 years, and was a longtime trustee of the Pacific Coast Golf Association, instrumental in bringing that association’s prestigious tournament to Eugene Country Club three times. For years, he was the starter at the OGA’s Oregon Amateur championship, until ill health kept him home this year.

“It was sort of an empty feeling without Coach Nos there,” said OGA executive director Barb Trammell. “He was sort of a legend in golf in the state. … He knew almost everybody in the industry, and everyone knew him, and spoke of him so fondly.

“His contributions are endless. But aside from contributions, he was just a great, great guy. He had a heart of gold and would give you the shirt off his back. … It’s just a great loss to the Oregon golf community.”

Nosler, who owned the Steven J’s men’s clothing store for many years, was always impeccably dressed, as if he was about to have lunch at Eugene Country Club, or call upon potential donors, who invariably had a hard time refusing him. Which brings up this story from Mundle:

They were sharing a hotel room on a road trip when Mundle woke up about 2 a.m. and saw a light under the door. Curious, he went to investigate, and there he found Nosler, who had done the team’s laundry, the washing and drying, and now was ironing shirts and trousers for his athletes.

“I’m the only one who can do it,” he told Mundle.

Nosler’s gift to the Oregon men’s golf program went far beyond his ironing skills. Remember, Oregon once thought so little of that program that it was the place it chose to try to stash a fired basketball coach, Don Monson, who refused the assignment in 1992.

So Oregon turned to Nosler, who had raised money for UO golf in the past and who ran the program in a way that earned respect and credibility — and who cared enough about its best interests that he stepped aside when the Ducks had a chance to hire a potential coaching superstar in Casey Martin, serving as Martin’s assistant and then director of operations.

Ever a gentleman, Nosler expected his golfers to look that way, and act that way, on the golf course, or in life. He was simply one of the kindest, classiest coaches to ever represent the green-and-yellow, and if you were a golfer, or a Duck, he was your friend.

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