Current Darton State College men’s golf coach Bill Jones III, left, introduces former and legendary Cavs coach Dale Dover during an announcement Tuesday that Dover would soon be inducted into the NJCAA Golf Coaches Hall of Fame. (Joe Maher/Darton State College)
ALBANY — Just like Dale Dover wanted, there wasn’t a big deal made about his latest career achievement.
During a small press conference Tuesday afternoon at the Darton State College P.E. and Athletic Complex, the Cavaliers formally announced Dover’s selection to the NJCAA Golf Coaches Hall of Fame.
As the first coach from Darton ever to be inducted, Dover — who won three NJCAA National Championships from 2005-07 and now serves as the school’s golf director — sees this moment as yet another peak in a journey marked with plenty of triumphs.
“Our success has come from all this together,” said Dover, giving equal credit to his players, assistant coaches and school athletic officials. “There’s not just one area responsible. There’s a lot of things that go into making up a successful program.”
Dover will be inducted during a banquet at the NJCAA national tournament in Lubbock, Texas, on May 13. If the Cavs can qualify at regionals in two weeks in Tifton, they’ll join him for the program’s 15th straight appearance.
And nothing would make current Darton coach Bill Jones III — one of Dover’s former players during his national title run — happier.
“His record speaks for itself, and he has meant so much to Darton, to the Southwest Georgia Community and to all of the young men and their families that he has worked with,” Jones said.
Jones then added: “The influence he’s had, the friends he’s made, the connections we’ve made throughout the country by being a part of this program were more important than any of the wins we attained.”
To give one an idea of how much weight the name “Dale Dover” carries in the junior college golfing world, he was nominated by a rival coach: Janine Howell of Brevard (Fla.) Community College.
“Coach Dover always arrived at every tournament ready to compete. His players were gentlemen, and he never asked for any preferential treatment or favors,” Howell said. “When it comes to Hall of Fame criteria for nomination and potential election, Dale Dover earned every inch of the long swath he paved at Darton State College.”
After graduating from Piedmont College in 1966 and earning a Secondary Education Certification from the University of Georgia, Dover spent the next three decades working as a teacher, athletic director and head coach in football, baseball and track & field from Randolph County to Mitchell County before finding his way to Albany in the early 2000s. The Camilla resident served as assistant to Buster Clarke at Darton in 2002, then took over the team in 2003.
Two years later, the Cavs were national champs.
Once he got here, the impact was immediate.
“It’s still all about the players,” Dover humbly said Tuesday. “I never hit a shot or made a putt.”
A whopping 31 of Dover’s Darton players have gone on to earn golf scholarships at the next level, plenty of whom have turned pro.
In his successor’s eyes, it’s no coincidence.
“He’s worked as hard, or harder, than any player we’ve had to make success happen,” Jones said. “When you see the coach working that hard, it seems like he wants you to succeed more than you want it at times. All the success comes from his work ethic.”
Despite the aura of humility Dover spread to his players, his record should not be downplayed. During his tenure as head coach, his teams amassed 51 tournament wins, three NJCAA Division II championships, 12 region championships, and a district championship. He was named National Coach of the Year three years in a row, coinciding with his team’s three consecutive title victories from 2005-07. Darton would go on to finish runner-up at nationals in 2008 and 2009.
Jones, the NJCAA’s 2007 individual national champ, said he’s learned almost everything he knows about the game of golf from Dover.
“Work ethic is something everyone takes from here,” Jones said. “And that started with coach Dover.”