In seven years as Northern Illinois' head men's golf coach, John Cleary has led the Huskies to success on the course, in the classroom and in the community.
On the course, NIU has won five team titles in the last six seasons, garnered its top finish in the Mid-American Conference Championship in nine years (2006) and seen its team scores consistently lowered during his tenure. Thirty-one times, the Huskies have defeated teams from football's "Bowl Championship Series" automatic qualifying conferences, under Cleary.
Individually, Huskie players have earned the MAC's Freshman of the Year (Andrew Frame, 2007) and Sportsman of the Year (Zach Jecklin, 2008) awards, while Nick Schenk became Northern Illinois' first first-team All-MAC selection in two decades in 2006.
In 2004, Cleary mentored senior Joe True to a runner-up finish at the MAC Tournament, marking the highest individual finish for an NIU golfer at the event since 1978. Two years later, Zach Jecklin took fourth place to earn All-MAC Tournament honors.
During the summer of 2007, current senior Alex Wagner represented NIU when he qualified for the United States Amateur in San Francisco, Calif.
Huskie golfers have earned numerous academic accolades during Cleary's tenure with seven Academic All-MAC selections and six Golf Coaches' Association All-America Scholar Awards earned by three different NIU players.
Throughout Cleary's tenure, his Huskies have performed well in the classroom as well, consistently. Under Cleary, the Huskie men's golf team has been active in the community. Since 2003, NIU golfers have worked with the Illinois Hook a Kid on Golf program to help teach the game of golf to children ages 5-15. Last August, under Cleary's direction, the squad spent a day painting a house built by Habitat for Humanity in Elgin, Ill. Cleary himself has worked with Habitat for Humanity since 2000.
Just the second head coach in the 50-year history of the program, Cleary's impact was felt in his first season of 2002-03. During that initial campaign, the Glenview, Ill. native helped lower Northern Illinois' scoring average by more than eight strokes. The Huskies posted top 10 finishes in seven of their 10 tournaments and came home with titles from the Bradley Fall Classic and the Illinois State Intercollegiate.
A 1991 graduate of the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in personnel administration, Cleary, 42, began working at the Glen View Club under NIU golf alum Bob Dickman.
His coaching career began in 1997 as an assistant coach for the Loyola (Ill.) men's and women's teams. He started his association with Northwestern University as an assistant women's golf coach. In his three seasons with the Wildcat women, NU scored a runner-up finish in the Big Ten Conference Championships in 2001 after earning its first NCAA Championships berth the previous season. In 2001-02,
CLEARY'S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
-Led the Huskies to five team titles over the past six seasons.
-Coached Joe True to a runner-up finish at the 2004 MAC Championships.
-Three NIU players have earned six Cleveland Golf All-American Scholar awards since 2005.
-Coached seven Academic All-MAC selection since 2004.
-Two Huskies have been named All-MAC, including NIU's first first-team selection in 20 years.
-Helped two NIU players earn MAC individual awards (Andrew Frame, 2007 MAC Freshman of the Year and Zach Jecklin, 2008 MAC Sportsman of the Year).
-Participated in the 2000 PGA Tour Advil Western Open.
-Three-year representative on the Illinois PGA Radix Cup team.
-An assistant coach for the 2002 Northwestern NCAA Central Regional men's team.
-Runner-up in the 2000 Illinois PGA Championships as a player.