Colorado golf coach Mark Simpson dies at 55

Updated: December 6, 2005, 12:19 AM ET
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Colo. -- Colorado golf coach Mark Simpson, college coach to Steve Irwin, Jonathan Kaye and 1996 U.S. Open champion Steve Jones, died Monday after a battle with lung cancer.

Simpson, 55, died at a hospice of complications from a blood clot in his lungs, Colorado sports information director Dave Plati said.

Simpson was declared cancer-free in April, but the cancer returned in September and he underwent surgery for blood clots Nov. 15.

Though treatments kept him from traveling with the golf team this fall, his 29th season, Simpson still oversaw the team's day-to-day affairs.

"I never met someone who gained as much respect in my estimation that coach Simpson has," senior golf captain Edward McGlasson said.

"Every moment with him was priceless, and everyone who was ever touched by him should feel blessed," McGlasson said.

Simpson became head golf coach in January 1977, replacing Les Fowler, who also coached the Buffaloes for 29 years.

Jones was one of his first recruits. Jones said he was learning how to become a college golfer as Simpson was learning to be a better coach.

"He became a good coach, I became a good golfer, and we became good friends. And we have been friends since 1977," Jones said. "A lot of people can't say that about their head coaches, but I am proud to say that about Mark."

Simpson himself played for CU and went on to become an assistant golf coach and facilities manager. He later earned a degree from CU in commercial recreation in 1983.

"How can I ask my players to graduate if I haven't done so," he said in 1981.

Of the 129 golfers he brought into Colorado's program, 119 earned degrees from CU.

Simpson was born June 25, 1950, in Durango. He played on his high school golf, baseball, football and tennis teams.

He was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame in January.

Survivors include his wife, Valorie of Boulder; stepdaughters, Lindsey of Boulder and Michelle Isham of Phoenix; a grandson, Jaden; and his mother, Martha Carman Simpson of Durango.

A memorial service was scheduled Saturday on campus in Boulder.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press