Henry Thomas has always wished success for the golf team at Augusta State University.
The 68-year-old Thomas was assistant coach of the ASU men's golf team for 35 years. It was a job he took seriously.
Through the years, ASU golf teams have done well, but never before quite as well as they performed during the 2010 season, which culminated with them winning the NCAA Division 1 Men's Golf National Championship over Oklahoma State University.
"This is something I've wanted to see happen for a long, long time," said Thomas, as tears streamed down his face during a recent interview with The McDuffie Mirror . "This is definitely a dream come true. This is huge for the golf program and equally as big for ASU. It's going to mean a lot of great things to come in the future."
Thomas, who lives at Belle Meade near Thomson, considers himself fortunate to have been affiliated with the ASU men's golf program for as long as he was.
"I've just been lucky to be along for the ride," said Thomas, who retired from ASU in 2004. Aside from serving as the assistant golf coach all of those years, Thomas also was director of the institution's Performing Arts Department. "I wish they had won it while I was still there. That would have been a great send-off."
Thomas said he had known for several years that the ASU men's golf program was destined for greatness.
"We've always had a tremendous golf program at ASU," said Thomas. "I'm very proud of them winning the national championship this year. It means a lot to me and a lot of other people, too, who love Augusta State University. This has been a journey. And now that dream has come true. It's like getting to end of the rainbow -- the only difference, money can't replace what this golf team did. I couldn't be more proud."
Thomas remembers exactly what he was doing on the day that his beloved ASU Jaguars defeated Oklahoma State University for the national title.
That special day was a Sunday. Any other Sunday, Thomas would have found himself in Sunday school class at First Baptist Church in Thomson, listening to his teacher and friend, Ralph Starling.
"I called up Ralph and told him I wouldn't be there that morning and the reason why," explained Thomas, noting that Starling understood. "I told him that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Thomas, instead, was glued to his computer -- his only way of following the national championship between Augusta State University and Oklahoma State University. He followed every step.
"I could not move from that chair except to go to the bathroom every so often," said Thomas. "The more I watched, the better they seemed to play and the happier it made me."
He remembers asking for a little help from God for the last two ASU golfers on the course, Mitch Krywulycz and Taylor Floyd.
"The other two golfers had made it in with their scores, but Mitch and Taylor were still playing," said Thomas. "I prayed for both of them to do well."
Thomas' prayer was answered.
The ASU Jaguars of head coach Josh Gregory went on to win the NCAA Division 1 Men's Golf National Championship -- the first such title in school history. Other sports at ASU play at the NCAA Division II level.
When that happened, Thomas remembered breaking down and crying.
"It was such an emotional time for me and everyone who loves ASU golf," said Thomas. "I haven't gotten over it, yet. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life. What a great memory."
One of the reasons why is because he is so close to the players and their parents.
For more than three decades, Thomas was directly involved in recruiting golfers to ASU.
"Recruiting was something I was good at," said Thomas. "I could sell ASU, because of all of the good things offered there -- the best being a place to get a great education. I knew first-hand how much the staff cared about students there and I told parents of recruits that I spoke to about that very unique blend."
His technique apparently worked, because the Jaguars have been blessed with outstanding golfers for many years.
While serving as the assistant golf coach at ASU, Thomas was fortunate to meet and become friends with many outstanding golf coaches around the country.
One of those is Ernie Langford, former head coach of the men's golf program at ASU, who now is head coach at Florida State University.
"Ernie is one of my best friends," said Thomas, who coached under him for several years. "He's a great guy. He's a real caring person. He has some of the highest morals you'll find in a coach. He's a class act."
Coach Langford telephoned and congratulated Thomas, as did many other coaches from across the country.
"Those calls were very special to me," said Thomas, who now suffers from major medical problems with his lungs. Despite his medical limitations, he still gets around with the use of oxygen tanks close to him at all times. Thomas has undergone four lung surgeries and has only 20 percent lung capacity.
Despite his medical condition, Thomas still manages to play golf twice a week with friends at Belle Meade Country Club. It's something he looks forward to.
Another special telephone call that came his way after the ASU Jaguars won the collegiate golf title was from ASU Athletic Director Clint Bryant.
"Clint's call here at home really meant a lot to me, too," said Thomas. "He was always a believer from the start in our golf program when he came to Augusta. He's always given us anything we've ever needed or asked for and more."
As for ASU head coach Josh Gregory, Thomas said he can't extend enough compliments.
"I praise coach Gregory for what he did in leading these fine young men to a national championship," said Thomas.
"I watched him mature. He's a man, now and one of the best golf coaches in the country."