Now 46, Holder is calmer, and it can at least be said that he treats his charges better than Bobby Knight does his. "I've just mellowed with age," Holder says. "If I hadn't, I'd have run myself out of coaching. I don't know what I was thinking all those years."
He has not, however, stopped running his program like a boot camp. Holder was one of the first golf coaches to make players work out, and he goes with his charges to their mandatory 6:05 a.m. aerobics class three days a week. Tardiness to any team function results in a week of 45-minute predawn workouts on a Stepmill, or comparable punishment. The results of the intense training are obvious. "They all look the same from behind," Auburn's Griffin says of Holder's troops.
Holder intentionally holds qualifying rounds in cold and rainy weather. "It toughens them up," he says. And, unlike some coaches, he requires players to attend every class. "When I was at ASU," says Kuehne, who transferred to OSU in 1993, "we never had to go to class. That's true at a lot of big-time schools."
Holder's strict style breeds intensely focused student-athletes. On the surface all his players look like robotic, emotionless, birdie-making machines, but Holder's team should not be judged by its steely cover. "People are always asking me, "What's it like to play for Holder?' " says Kuehne. "It's really not so bad. We're just a tight-knit group of people who strive for excellence in whatever we do." And they tend to succeed. In 1994 every player in the top five was named to the Academic All-Big Eight team.
The Cowboys were ranked No. 1 in the country when they went to last year's NCAAs, and without Woods in the fray, they were the focus of attention. "Maybe it hurt us," Holder says, Now the Cowboys can win all they want and they'll still be able to tiptoe into the tournament. And if Holder has his way, they'll also be able to tiptoe away with the championship trophy.