Coach Pat

Coach Pat, Patrick Dolan, passed away last Friday, October 22, 2005.

Most of the pistol shooters at the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club and many of those who frequented the public range had come to know his sometimes goading, sometimes soothing voice. He called a great many of the Bullseye competitions. Anyone who has competed there has probably heard him announce, “The line is safe. Go down and score those targets, … and cover up that mess.”

I met Coach Pat when I came to watch a Bullseye Pistol competition a year ago. I had been shooting for all of a few short months and had learned only that accurate pistol shooting was hard, very hard. While the competitors were down scoring targets, Coach Pat introduced himself and answered my questions about the sport. By way of suggestion, he said he gave private lessons “for twenty bucks until one of us gets tired or pissed off.” Amused at the time, I would come to value his direct and “no holds barred” style of coaching. He was honest and real.

His love of the sport of competitive pistol shooting was surpassed only by his desire to see shooters getting better and better. Some like to teach because it lets them show what they know. Others teach because they truly want others to do better. Coach Pat was solidly in the second group: he wanted to see others hitting closer and closer to the X. Their progress, their growth, was his joy.

Pat’s patience was truly extraordinary. Every time he repeated, yet again, some instruction I just couldn’t get, it was as if he were saying it for the first time, measured, clear and direct. I can hear, even now, “level and smooooth, level and smooooth.”

And in his rare, introspective moments, it was as if each event in his life had been a shot that stood out clear and stark, but after a brief glance at the goal, his focus would come back to the front sight, the next shot, the next moment in his life.

I think he would have said, “Life is now. Focus here, right here.”

Coach Pat taught many to shoot; most got more.

Thanks, Coach.

4 thoughts on “Coach Pat

  1. I believe Coach Pat was introduced to a Line stretching from Hawaii to Maine in your Bullseye L Surrogate Shooter post a few weeks ago.

    There are a few hundred (or a thousand?)of us who feel the loss, having never met Coach Pat but through your writings.

    Our hats are off to you both.

  2. Thank you. Coach Pat will be deeply missed. Those he inspired through his good nature, enthusiasm and uncomplaining nature will carry him to others. No one with those qualities ever really leaves.

  3. I showed up at my first match earlier this year (2005), with a stock revolver and fistfull of ammo. Coach Pat immediately caught sight of me and put me on position #1, and began the lessons on the spot. It became clear on our first private session, that when he was in instruction mode, the trainee was to do a lot of listening, and provide little commentary of their own.

    Just prior to his passing, he was on the range giving instruction to Cardinal free safety Quentin Harris, and his daughter (he later confided that the ~10 something year old shot significantly better than her pro athlete dad. At one point during the lesson, “Q” was not catching on about ignoring the wobble. Pat called me over and handed me a gun. He said, “no here’s a bullseye shooter, he was just over there shooting at 50 yards — and look at how bad his wobble is”. I was both embarrased and proud at the same time.

    Shortly after, during the state distinguished revolver match, I managed to put up the 3rd highest score during the rapid fire portion. Coach was in the booth directly behind my position, and immediately began to holler “look at Jeff, that’s what persistance will get you”.

    The greatest reflection on such a gifted educator, is in knowing that his spirit carries on in those of us fortunate enough to have crossed his path.

    Jeff Fehlhaber, Glendale

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