But soon after he took the job, Paterson realized he'd have to scale back. The short season, Yale's academic rigors and the proliferation of athletic scholarships—forbidden in the Ivy League—all worked against his goal of building a national-caliber team. "So the main thing," he says, "was to make sure these kids had an experience they could look back on that was athletic, cultural and educational."
That's not to say he hasn't achieved success in the traditional sense. Paterson's men's teams—he also founded a women's team and coached it for a half-dozen years—have won eight Ivy League titles and four New England Division I championships. They've qualified for the NCAA tournament ten times. Three of his players have gone on to play professionally: Peter Teravainen ('78), who has won on four tours worldwide; Heather Daly-Donofrio ('91), a major-championship winner on the LPGA Tour; and Bob Heintz ('92), who has survived the crucible of Q-school three times and is currently a member of the PGA Tour.
"People say, 'Did you ever produce any great players at Yale?'" Paterson says. "And I say, 'Well, there was Bobby Heintz. There was Peter Teravainen. There are a few kids who've tried for the Tour.' But I always tell them that we've produced quite a number of great presidents. That's what we're in the game for. We're not in it to produce golf pros."
Paterson's graduates who have fanned out into the business world carry with them their experiences as Yale golfers. "Dave kind of knew when to help and when to leave you alone—from both an instructional and a psychological standpoint," says Jim Goff, who played on two Ivy League–championship teams and won the individual title in 1984. Now the director of research at Janus Capital Group, the Denver-based mutual-fund company, Goff said Paterson had a way of keeping him and his teammates loose with a wry sense of humor—though sometimes the humor was unintended. When the '84 team qualified for the NCAAs, Paterson decided the players needed to upgrade their appearance, so he took them to get their slacks tailored. The bill came to seventy-four dollars, and Paterson was outraged. "He muttered over and over in his wonderful brogue, 'Seventy-four bananas! Can you believe that?Seventy-four bananas!'" recalls Tom Borah, a member of that team and now an analyst and portfolio manager for a hedge fund in Chicago. "From that day on, a score of seventy-four was known as 'shooting bananas.'"
Paterson's former players also recall the two-week trips he led them on during spring break. Some years it was Monterey and San Francisco, others Texas or the Southeast. And every four years he's taken the team on a whirlwind tour of the British Isles (see page 130). "It was unbelievable," says Rick Reissman ('06), who played Turnberry, Troon, Muirfield and the Old Course when they went abroad his sophomore year and who now works for the Royal Bank of Scotland. "I never would have played those places without him."
Given the team's daily practices and all the travel, many of Paterson's former players say they spent far more time with him than with any professor. "Dave was always interested in how things were going for you and in making sure you had a good college experience," says C. Fritz Foley ('93), who is now an associate professor at Harvard Business School.
The players, in turn, became a kind of surrogate family for Paterson, who has two grown children with whom he says he didn't spend as much time as he might have when they were growing up. When he was getting married for the third time (after a long bachelorhood following his second divorce), his fiancée, Angela, contacted a number of his former players to make sure they'd be at the wedding. She joked that he might not show up unless he knew "the boys" would be there. Not only did they go, but several of them served as groomsmen.
As for Paterson's toughness as coach, he's had his reasons. "I hate to cancel a tournament," he says. "The season is so short, if you lose a day you can never make it up." The time he barked at Ed Brockner to play on in the snow?It was during the Spring Opener, and Yale held the lead based on the first-round scores; other coaches might have cried foul if he canceled the final day.
Paterson announced his retirement plans at an alumni golf outing at the Yale course in May. He told the group over dinner that he would take on a more limited role in the coming season and help break in a new coach; a month later, Colin Sheehan was hired as his heir apparent. Back on a quiet afternoon in mid-April, as we sat in his office at Payne Whitney Gym, Yale's Gothic athletic complex, Paterson had confided his intention to step down. "There's always a need to bring in new blood," he told me. "Who knows if there's a better way to coach, if a younger person can bring something new?That's the progression in life. You need renewal."