18 holes with … Porter Moser

Improving Loyola's basketball fortunes higher on his priority list than golf

Loyola coach Porter Moser after playing at Wilmette Golf Club.

Before reaching the first tee, Porter Moser dropped $99 on shoes at the Wilmette Golf Club shop. He had gone so long between purchases, he examined the bottom of some spikeless kicks and asked, "Is this normal?"

His golf bag, he joked, had spider webs protecting a carved-up Pinnacle and a few range balls.

"My boys raided the bag," said the father of four.

What remained might not net $20 at a flea market. Moser carries no sand wedge, and his Wilson Fat Shaft irons were considered innovative in 1997. His Callaway driver and 3-wood also are "Seinfeld"-era relics, and as for his Ping Sedona putter, Moser cracked, "I think I stole it from a Putt-Putt course."

The Loyola men's basketball coach gets a nice four-figure allowance from Nike, so he could put together a bag that would impress Tiger and Rory. But Moser would rather make sure his kids, ages 6 to 11, have all the swooshes they desire.

Moser grew up near Cress Creek Country Club in Naperville, and family members played at nearby White Eagle. But golf gear — and golf itself — is now low on his priority list.

"It has been six years since I played my own ball," he said. "Hey, I worked for (Rick) Majerus for four of 'em."

Majerus called him in 2007 after Illinois State let Moser go following four seasons and a 51-67 record.

They never had met, but Majerus told Moser he was planning to take the St. Louis job and needed a top assistant and ace recruiter with strong Midwestern ties. When Majerus sought advice on a hire, the first three people recommended the same man: Moser.

Majerus elevated him to associate head coach, which also made him a top dinner companion.

"From paper napkins at Steak 'n Shake to white tablecloth at Lorenzo's on the Hill," Moser recalled. "He'd say, 'Hey, Porter, let's grab a quick bite to eat and talk ball.' I'd give my right arm for another three-hour dinner with him."

Loyola hired Moser in 2011 to rebuild a program that had finished eighth in the Horizon League for three straight seasons.

He gutted it, signed seven freshmen and fielded the sixth-youngest Division I team in 2012-13. The Ramblers went 15-16 with a victory over DePaul, and all the while Moser kept this advice from Majerus in his mind: "Do it slow. Do it your way. Build a program, not a team."

The program steps up in class next season to the Missouri Valley Conference, replacing Creighton, which is bound for the new Big East.

Jumping into the Valley with an even younger team — zero seniors, two juniors — portends another tough season, but Moser uses a saying that once belonged to his beloved Cubs: "It's gonna happen."

Hey, the Cubs are undefeated (3-0) when Moser throws out the ceremonial first pitch, so anything is possible.

Moser even had high hopes after whacking his first drive into the fairway at Wilmette, which will shut down July 29 to undergo a $2.2 million project to improve the fairways and greens.

But Moser sliced his second out of play and then began to provide some amusing commentary: "Sand trap, here I come. … No, you have to be positive, like free-throw shooting. … I'll see how long it takes to have to go to confessional because of my language."

Moser borrowed a driver on the fifth tee and launched one sideways.

"Oh, my God, I'm two fairways over!" he said. "The good news is I won't be stealing from your bag."

CHICAGO

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