GAINESVILLE — Golf and Bryson Worley already go hand-in-hand -- at the high school level and throughout northeast Georgia.
The University of North Georgia wants to make the two synonymous on the collegiate level as well.
The Nighthawks announced on Thursday that Worley, who led the Gainesville boys golf program to two state titles and eight region crowns over a 15-year stint, has accepted the position as Director of Golf for UNG.
Worley will coach the men's team and oversee the development of the women's program in Dahlonega.
"Bryson is extremely well-respected in the golf community," University of North Georgia Director of Athletics Lindsay Reeves stated via press release. "The position had a very strong pool of candidates and we are very excited that he and his family have decided to join the Nighthawk team. Bryson's understanding of the college golf landscape, along with his passion and vision for North Georgia is a great fit for both our university, as well as our golf programs."
For Worley it was an opportunity too great to turn down.
"They're unifying both under one umbrella," Worley said. "I love Gainesville and didn't want to leave, but this is a dream job. I'm lucky, I've had two dream jobs because Gainesville certainly was one. But this is a new challenge for me; I've always dreamt of being a college coach."
Worley said that UNG's facilities and athletic aspirations played heavily into his decision.
"The athletic department made a renewed commitment to golf to make sure it's one of the best at that level and a commitment to facilities," Worley said. "Achasta is our home course, and we've got a great relationship with them. I love the school, just an impressive campus, education, facilities. Not many programs have a course that nice that close to campus."
There will also be a strong Red Elephants influence on the team, which already includes former Gainesville golfers Hunter Worley (Bryson's son) and Lawson King. Recent Gainesville graduates Ryan Hogan and Davis Weaver will also be joining the Nighthawks in the upcoming season.
"It's also close to Atlanta for recruiting; it's kind of untapped," said Worley, whose first official day is July 2. "Hopefully we can awaken a sleeping giant. I've done my home work; I've consulted a lot of coaches. I keep saying it's a gold mine -- not to to use a pun, but that's why I took it."
Meanwhile, Gainesville, will begin the process of selecting Worley's replacement after 15 stellar seasons.
"Coach Worley has been one of the most successful coaches at Gainesville, certainly in recent history," said Red Elephants athletic director Adam Lindsey, who has replaced seven coaches this year at Gainesville. "Of all the coaching changes that have happened this year, this is the biggest blow because he has the most successful program at the school. But the most difficult part is what he brings to the table as a person; I don't worry as much about golf as the other things he does on a daily basis for the school. Fortunately, we have a very strong golf staff, and he's to credit to that as well. He'll also be close as well, and he wants this program to keep doing well."
With the ability of the golf coaches already on hand, Lindsey will take a page from UNG and move girls coach Clay McDonald into a director of golf role, as well as hiring another coach to help fill Worley's void.
"Coach McDonald understands the importance of the golf programs in the community and he gets it," Lindsey said. " It's important we find another coach to replace to Bryson though."
Worley led Gainesville to state titles in 2012-13, as well as eight other state tournament appearances, and he's glad the work that went into building the program in his time will largely remain.
"There's four very good coaches in the program and three are staying there; the continuity is going to stay," Worley said of a program that saw its boys team finish third in Class 6A and its girls team take seventh at state in 2018. "It's probably one of the few golf jobs in the country where people care who gets the head job. I've been there 15 years, and I want to make sure things are done right. My daughter still goes to school there, and we're not moving to Dahlonega any time soon. We love Gainesville."
A number of collegiate coaches have already been impressed by the hire in statements released on the UNG website:
"Great hire by UNG! Bryson will do a phenomenal job with North Georgia just as he has done at Gainesville High School. He knows what it takes to not only build teams, but to win championships."
- Chris Haack, Director of Golf/Head Men's Golf Coach, University of Georgia
"I am very excited to have Bryson take over our men's program. He has had a long tradition of success at Gainesville and I am positive he will start that tradition here at North Georgia. I am looking forward to working with him in this new role."
- Leigh Anne Hunter, Head Women's Golf Coach, University of North Georgia
"Bryson is going to be a great fit at the University of North Georgia. He is the type of coach that will create a phenomenal culture with high expectations throughout the program which will lead to them being successful."
- Ryan Hybl, Head Men's Golf Coach, Oklahoma University