One year later: remembering the legacy of WKU Men’s Golf coach Phillip Hatchett

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – It was supposed to be just another Father’s Day on June 17, 2018.

Until it wasn’t.

Zach Greenwell, out to lunch with his wife and family, received a phone call from Western Kentucky Director of Athletics Todd Stewart, who had to share the tragic news he himself had just received.

“I remember I just sank to my knees, literally, in the parking lot,” said Greenwell, the sports information director for WKU Men’s Golf. “It kind of overwhelmed me in that moment.”

WKU Men’s Golf head coach Phillip Hatchett had died in a cycling accident after being a struck and killed by a car on a highway in Logan County.

“The entire community was shocked,” said Adam Gary, head coach for WKU Women’s Golf, whose office was right next to Hatchett’s inside E.A. Diddle Arena. “No one saw this coming.”

It’s a phone call no one ever wants to receive or have to make.

“It was just terrible,” said Stewart, who was told of Hatchett’s death by his wife, Beth. “Honestly it would have been terrible any of the other 364 days either just because of the kind of person that Phillip was.”

When speaking with Greenwell, Stewart and Gary, all three said the same thing about Hatchett – he always had an upbeat attitude and would make sure you felt the same way after any interaction you had with the him.

“He always made you feel good when you were in his company,” Stewart said. “He was always positive. The ultimate glass-is-half-full guy.”

Greenwell shared a similar sentiment.

“He had the unique ability to make everyone feel like they were the most important person, always cared personally about you,” he added. “I don’t think I was special to that. He treated everybody in that way.”

Hatchett, a 1985 graduate of WKU and four-year letterman for the men’s golf program, spent eight seasons as head coach of the program and led a resurgence in recent years since he took over in 2010.

WKU recorded five top-five performances as a team in 2017-18 and produced its best conference tournament round since 2008.

Since his passing, Rolling Hills Golf Course in Russellville, Ky. named a building after him, WKU Athletics created the Phillip Hatchett Hilltopper Spirit Award, and Conference USA re-named it’s top men’s golf coaching accolade to the Phillip Hatchett Coach of the Year award.

“The lives that he’s touched through golf, he won’t be forgotten,” said Gary.

Perhaps more than anyone, Hatchett’s influence can be seen in the 2018-2019 WKU Men’s Golf team.

Playing their first season without Hatchett coaching them, they dedicated the season to him, adopting a new team motto: “Play 4 Coach.”

“I think the fact that they took that and used it as motivation and played in his memory is exactly what he would’ve wanted,” Greenwell said. “It’s a great honor to him and his wife, and to all they envisioned for this program.”

While it’s only been a year since Hatchett’s unexpected death, the legacy and impact he left behind is something that will never be forgotten.

“There’s no question that if the world had more Phillip Hatchetts in it, it would be a better place,” said Stewart.

Something Hatchett pushed for during his time at WKU was an indoor golf practice facility.

That facility is currently under construction and is expected to open in the fall.

Officials said they intend to name the facility in Hatchett’s honor.