SFU alum lands top job with ND Irish

By Ken Love

For the Mirror

Saint Francis alum John Handrigan, a standout golfer for the Red Flash during the late 1990’s, has always found time to return to central Pennsylvania each summer in order to reconnect with old friends — and to play in a local tournament or two.

Since graduating from St. Francis University in 2000, the Canadian-born Handrigan has worked to build an impressive coaching resume within the college golf ranks. The culmination of Handrigan’s dedicated work came to fruition last week — while visiting friends in Altoona and playing in the Sinking Valley Golf Classic — the University of Notre Dame issued a press release naming Handrigan as the school’s new head golf coach.

Handrigan grew up playing golf in Bracebridge, Ontario and was eventually recruited by long-time golf coach Bob Hahn to attend St. Francis. He excelled there from the start, being named the team’s player of the year during each of his four years. As a senior in 2000, Handrigan was also named the school’s Male Student Athlete of the Year.

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Handrigan remained at St. Francis to complete his MBA while also serving as the golf team’s assistant coach. In 2003, he accepted the position as head golf coach at Coker College in South Carolina, leading the Cobras to the 2006 Division II NCAA Championship.

In 2007, Handrigan took the reins at Queens University in Charlotte, NC, heading both the men’s and women’s team. He was named women’s conference coach of the year in 2009.

Later in 2009, Handrigan made the significant jump to Division I athletics, accepting a position as assistant coach for the University of Kansas Jay Hawks. After two successful seasons, he took a similar position with the University of Florida Gators. In 2015, he earned the prestigious Jan Strickland Award as the season’s national assistant coach of the year. During his time in Gainesville, Handrigan helped guide the Gators to four NCAA Championship appearances. Last year, he was promoted to the position of associate head coach.

With his impressive rise through the coaching ranks, Handrigan was still humbled with his recent opportunity to interview for the head coaching position at Notre Dame.

At the conclusion of the interview process, Handrigan’s prospects looked extremely promising – however, he kept his Notre Dame opportunity under wraps as he made his annual pilgrimage back to the Altoona area. It wasn’t until last Friday that his hiring became official, with the Fighting Irish issuing a press release naming Handrigan the school’s new golf coach – just the seventh head coach in the 89-year history of Irish men’s golf.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity,” Handrigan said. “Notre Dame is a special place, with its high academic standards and great culture of excellence.”

As in year’s past, Handrigan spent his time in our area at the home of Tony and Darlene Roscia, of Altoona. The Roscia family has been close to Handrigan since his college days when their son Matt was a Red Flash teammate.

“John will do a great job at Notre Dame,” Tony Roscia said. “He’s quite a determined young man, and he has all the ability in the world. He’ll be tremendous for them.”

Handrigan happened to be playing golf — at the Sinking Valley Classic — when the news broke. He’s participated in many local two-man invitationals over the years – winning several titles with local golfing standout Jimmy Gillam. In recent years, he’s partnered with Hollidaysburg’s J.P. Stultz. The pair played well over the weekend at Sinking Valley, finishing in second place.

“John is a great partner,” Stultz said. “But more importantly, he’s a man who’s dedicated to his profession — he really deserves this great opportunity.”

At tournament’s end, Handrigan left central Pennsylvania to attend a press conference in South Bend, where he was formally introduced as Notre Dame’s new Golf Coach on Wednesday. He was hard at work soon after.

“I’ll be interviewing for an assistant coach right away,” Handrigan said. “Then, I’ll be off to the U.S. Junior Championship in Kansas to start recruiting.”

Despite the heavy workload and tremendous responsibilities involved in his new position, Handrigan was beaming as he left the Altoona area to begin his career at Notre Dame.

“It’s truly a special place,” he said. “I can’t wait to get started.”