“When I think about Eckerd College, I think about Bill Butter,” Andrew Boyle, a 2020 graduate, said.
On Nov. 10, the Assistant Director of Athletics, Amanda Green, officially announced the retirement of Coach Billy Buttner following this spring’s season. After 21 years with the Tritons, Buttner felt it was time to “do a lot more things on the fun side of golf rather than the work side.”
When asked further about the reasoning for his retirement, 67 year old Buttner began with, “the fact that I'm getting old.” Since the women’s golf team launched in 2006, Buttner has been coaching both men’s and women’s teams throughout the fall and spring seasons. In addition to the practices and games, Buttner is heavily involved with the recruitment and scholarship process for each team.
For Andrew Boyle and senior Apryl Parker, it was Buttner’s reaching out and recruiting that led them to the Tritons and eventually four years on the links for Eckerd. Buttner said when reaching out to incoming first-years, he’s looking for the big three charateristics: passion, maturity, and time management skills. These are qualities he hopes they have and will strengthen throughout their four years.
“Coach Buttner’s personality, and his persona, how he is as a coach, and how he manages our team are really what drew me to the program,” Parker said.
She joined the team in 2019 and has been on the Sunshine State Conference Spring Commissioner's Honor Roll for the past three years. She credits Buttner for always assuring her that while it is important to perform well, it is just as essential that everyone enjoys what they’re doing.
“He knows not to take me too seriously, and to try to make me laugh because I take everything so seriously,” Parker said, “at the end of the day, we're all people, and we're all just trying to have fun.”
Buttner’s family is responsible for sparking his interest in golf after he threw out his arm in baseball. Growing up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, he soon found the game exciting and kept improving at the sport. He went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he played golf with intentions of going professional. He moved to Orlando where he could play tournaments in the winter and met a woman who he moved to St. Petersburg with in the early 2000s. He was introduced to the then Tritons’ golf coach Joe Carolla, who had recently announced his retirement, and asked Buttner if he wanted the job.
“Golf is a game. It really brings you into social settings, it brings you into relationships, it brings you into business,” Buttner said. “It's a great way to meet people, a great way to get business, it's just amazing how small the golf world is.”
Buttner wants to leave his athletes with the understanding that many great things can happen because of golf. It’s not easy, he says, but it can bring a lot of satisfaction if you let it.
When asked about what the incoming first-years are missing by not being coached byButtner, Boyle said, “they're going to be missing out on somebody who cares incredibly about the game of golf but cares more about their players.”
Boyle said Buttner was a rarity of a coach who dedicated his whole life to the game of golf. Buttner plans to continue this golf-lead lifestyle by using his retirement to travel for personal pleasures with the sport, yet plans to further assist with the Tritons whenever he can.
“They're missing a big, bright personality. He's the type of coach that makes you excited to go to the golf course and excited to learn and further develop your skills. If I'm having a bad day on the course, I can talk to him,” Parker said.
Both Parker and Boyle expressed their gratitude and attributed his passion to their current love of the sport.
“So I would say thank you for all the dedication that he's really given his team as a coach and not only as a coach but as a part of our family.” Boyle said.
On April 25, Buttner will coach his final game as Tritons golf coach in Miami Beach at the Sunshine State Conference Championship. He said he will continue to be around campus and a part of the Eckerd community, maybe not as an official coach, but forever as a friend.
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