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Sergent enjoys success as player, coach during half-century golf career

Kevin Mays • Jun 27, 2020 at 10:45 AM

BIG STONE GAP — Golf is a lifetime sport. Just ask Bill Sergent III.

The 65-year-old golf coach at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky, won one of his first titles in high school playing for Powell Valley.

Sergent was part of the golf team that won the 1972 VHSL Group A championship at Lonesome Pine Country Club near Big Stone Gap.

“We were the first team in Powell Valley history to win a state championship,” he said. “There were quite a few after that, but we were the first to win one.”

Nearly 48 years later, Sergent is still playing for championships at LPCC.

He plans to play in next month’s Lonesome Pine Invitational, a Tri-Cities Amateur Tour event. Sergent has won a record nine invitational titles at LPCC as well a seniors title in the prestigious tournament.

During his more than 50-year golf career, Sergent has continued to win titles both as a player and a coach.

THE JOURNEY

Capturing the state championship with Powell Valley was just the beginning for Sergent on his “home” course.

Although he resides in London, Kentucky, and Crooked Creek Golf Club in London has his allegiance, LPCC will always have a place in his heart, Sergent said.

“I was a member at Lonesome Pine for a long time. I was a nonresident member up to just a few years ago,” he said. “It was my home course for a long time.”

Sergent’s comfort with the course is apparent.

“When I started playing at Lonesome Pine, it was only nine holes,” he recalled. “When I was in high school, they added the back nine. It’s a beautiful course.”

His first Lonesome Pine Invitational championship came in 1978, his ninth in 2009.

Sergent also won six club championships and several other tournaments at LPCC.

SUCCESS ON THE LINKS

Lonesome Pine is not the only course where Sergent has found success. Far from it.

After high school, Sergent played his way to a hall of fame collegiate career at the University of the Cumberlands. He won what was then a school-record 10 tournament championships from 1975-78.

Sergent played in three NAIA national tournaments and was a four-time All-Kentucky Inter-collegiate Athletic Conference selection, a three-time KIAC champion and a three-time NAIA All-District 32 pick. He won the District 32 tournament in 1977, breaking the district scoring record with a 5-under 139.

After graduating, Sergent moved right into coaching at his alma mater.

“I guess I drove my coach into retirement,” he said with a laugh.

Though he’s continued to coach, he remains active as a player, winning several championships. His Kentucky State Amateur titles in 1990 and 1997 stand out.

“As proud as I am of winning those championships at Lonesome Pine, winning those two state am titles is probably my biggest accomplishment as a player,” Sergent said. “There were a lot of really strong players in those tournaments.”

COACHING SUCCESS

Sergent coached the Cumberlands men’s program from 1978-2007. After helping with the creation of the school’s women’s program, he also coached that team from 1994 until leaving the school in 2007.

Sergent’s Cumberlands teams made 15 trips to the NAIA nationals, won 16 KIAC championships and had 63 All-KIAC players. In 1992, he coached Cumberlands to a sixth-place finish in the NAIA national tournament and had the individual national champion in Scott Gardner.

“It was truly a great experience to watch him play,” Sergent said of Gardner, who entered a pro circuit for a few years after his graduation.

MOVING ON

After a few years out of coaching, including a four-year stint as director of golf at Crooked Creek, Sergent ventured back into the business.

He served as Virginia-Wise’s coach from 2014-15 before taking a similar position at Union College, where he’s been for the past four seasons.

Sergent said he loves coaching, but he expects to retire from the profession for good eventually.

“At some point, maybe, I’d like to go to Florida and see if I could get used to playing a lot of golf again,” he said.

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