LEWISBURG, Pa. – After leading the Bucknell men’s golf team to three Patriot League titles and 16 tournament wins over the last 13 years, head coach Jim Cotner has announced his retirement. Cotner took over the Bucknell men’s golf program in 2001 after a distinguished career as a coach and director of athletics at Lewisburg Area High School, and he guided Bison through one of the most successful eras in program history.
Cotner led Bucknell to a runner-up finish at the 2005 Patriot League Championship before breaking through with a first-ever PL title in 2006. A year later the Bison defended their crown, capturing the title with a narrow three-shot victory over Navy. In 2009, the Bison came from behind to catch Navy and host Army to win a third championship in four years. The league crowns automatically qualified the Bison for the NCAA Regionals, where they played at the famed Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa in 2006, at Arizona State’s Karsten Course in 2007, and at The Club at Olde Stone in Kentucky in 2009.
Cotner was named the Patriot League Coach of the Year in three straight seasons (2005-07) and again in 2009. Those three conference titles represented three of Bucknell’s 16 first-place finishes under Cotner’s leadership. When the Bison won the 2003 Bucknell Invitational, it was the program’s first title in an event of at least 36 holes in nearly 16 years. Cotner’s teams also compiled 19 runner-up finishes, including two at the Patriot League Championship, and he coached 16 individual medalists.
“I would like to thank and congratulate Jim Cotner for an outstanding 13 years as men’s golf coach at Bucknell,” said John Hardt, director of athletics and recreation. “The sport of golf has been a large and meaningful part of Jim’s life, and we are honored that he was able to share his passion and expertise with our Bison student-athletes. He leaves behind a well-established program with phenomenal facilities that is set up for continued success in the future. I wish Jim all the best in his retirement and look forward to seeing him around the Bucknell Golf Club.”
Two of the best players in program history were recruited and coached by Cotner. Charlie Waddell won back-to-back Patriot League championships in 2005 and 2006. Waddell captured four collegiate tournaments and continues to compete professionally. Andrew Cohen also won four career events, including the 2009 Patriot League Championship.
Cotner also watched Alex Dolle, Kyle Moran, Keita Aoki, Stuart Lindgren, Jeff Pike, Brian Bartow and Dan Bernard win tournaments. He saw Ben Pellicani break the 30-year-old school record with a 65 at the 2005 Patriot League Championship, as well as 66s from Cohen, Will Bachman, Andrew Wallisch and Patrick Yingling.
The Bucknell single-season scoring average record has been broken three times under Cotner’s tutelage, starting with Waddell’s 73.4 average in the fall of 2006. Rahul Desai lowered that mark with a 72.9 one year later, and Cohen now has the current record with a 72.4 in the fall of 2009.
All of the top-20 team scores have been posted during Cotner’s tenure, including a program-record 276 (-4) at the 2009 Bucknell Invitational.
“The opportunity to be the golf coach at Bucknell has just been a real treat for me,” said Cotner. “It really never seemed like work. Every day I looked forward to getting up in the morning and spending time with the guys on the team. Thinking back to all of the players that have come through the program and really getting to know them and their families, those friendships will be everlasting. I was fortunate to coach some very good players at Bucknell, and working with players of that caliber has been a special experience. I am also happy that many of our older alumni have reconnected with the program. It has been great getting to know many of the guys who played for Brad Tufts and Jeff Ranck and Tommy Thompson, and it is very special that they are and will continue to be a part of the Bucknell family.
“I have had the pleasure of meeting an awful lot of super people, including the coaches from other teams, the pros at the golf courses that we have played, and the administration and staff that has supported our program and been so helpful to me, especially coming into this position not knowing a whole lot about the behind-the-scenes aspects of college athletics. I have met many wonderful friends and mentors, and I want to thank them all for their support and friendship.”
A 2000 inductee into the West Branch Chapter of the Pennsylvania Athletic Hall of Fame, Cotner in 2001 retired from Lewisburg Area High School, where he served as the school’s director of athletics for 11 years. After moving to the district in September 1972, Cotner coached the Green Dragons’ boys’ varsity tennis team for four years (1972-75), the boys’ varsity golf team for five seasons (1982-86), the boys’ junior varsity basketball squad for two years (1972-74) and the boys’ varsity basketball team for 17 years (1974-90).
A 1972 graduate of East Stroudsburg University, Cotner is active in the local golf scene, as well. For 12 years he was president of the North Central Pennsylvania Golf Association, and he is a longtime USGA Committee Member for Regional Golf Associations.
Cotner is one of only five head coaches in the 70-plus-year history of the Bucknell men’s golf program, having succeeded Harold Evans (1939-42, 1946-66), Brad Tufts (1967-75), Jeff Ranck (1976-81) and Tommy Thompson (1982-2001).
A search for Cotner’s successor will begin immediately.