April 21, 2006
SEA ISLAND, Ga. -
Auburn men's golf head coach Mike Griffin remembers a phone call he received during recruiting season over five years ago. It was Stuart Moore, a senior at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Ga., trying to decide where he would spend his college days.
Moore called with a simple question.
"He said Coach, do you want me or not?" said Griffin. "I said well, I like your attitude, son. You are mighty right, I'd love to have you."
From that conversation, Griffin knew then all he needed to about Moore. "I knew what kind of young man he was," Griffin said. He is very straightforward. He is the kind of leader that every coach would love to have. If he has something that he wishes to contribute, it's going to come straight on, but most of the time he leads by example."
In November of 2001, after taking a recruiting visit to Auburn, Moore signed a letter of intent to attend school and play golf for the Tigers. In his first year at Auburn, Moore watched and listened as his older teammates led by example, showing him how to manage his time and academics while becoming a better golfer at the same time.
Moore led the NCAA in driving accuracy as both a freshman and a sophomore and was an All-SEC second-team selection last year with a 73.26 stroke average as a junior.
Five years later, Moore, the lone senior on Auburn's men's golf team, is preparing to lead his teammates into postseason play for the final time.
The time that Moore spent with older players in his early years helped him to develop the leadership qualities that he has today, something Griffin says his young team needs.
"With the character he possesses, Stuart has become one of the best leaders we have ever had," Griffin said. He has provided quality leadership at a time when this young team really needed it. As a result of it, they are now more like him, and I think somewhere in the future they will have thanked him for the opportunity to have learned under him. He's got a strong set of shoulders, and he's done yeoman's work helping the youngsters get better and wiser."
As the only senior, Moore has taken an active role in the development of his younger teammates.
"Lee Williams and Will Claxton helped me tremendously and were really instrumental my first couple of years here," said Moore. "Now, I'm trying to help some of the younger guys.
"Being the only senior, I feel like I can have an impact on them. I think it is important that I help Glenn (Northcutt), Cole (Moreland) and Keith (White). I tell them I have been exactly where they are, and I know exactly what they are feeling."
For Moore, the teaching process has not been easy as the team has had to endure some growing pains this season.
"We've had some trouble at times because of inexperience," Moore said. We have guys who have never played any of these golf courses before, so it's been a difficult process."
Still, though, Moore says he has seen teammates grow with each tournament this year and thinks they are ready for the postseason, beginning this weekend at the SEC Championship in Sea Island, Ga.
"We have to take each tournament one at a time," Moore said. We are playing a lot better now than we were earlier in the year. Sea Island really suits us well. If you play good golf, anybody can win."
Earlier this month, Auburn claimed the Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate title and Moore won the individual championship with a record setting performance. He set an Auburn individual record for the lowest round under par with an 8-under 64 in the second round. And while Moore will remember that second round at the Hitchcock, his relationships off the golf course are what he will remember most.
"The last five years have been great," Moore said. I'd start over again on day one if I could. The thing I will remember most about my time here is not what happened on the golf course but getting to know my teammates. I have become lifelong friends with every one of those guys."
"We're only losing one senior this season, but in losing Stuart, we're going to lose a great deal," said Griffin. "He's not just a golfer. You can replace golf skills but it is very, very difficult for a team to replace leadership, and that is something he has in abundance.
"I'm eternally grateful for the day he picked up the phone and called me."