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Dooley: Farewell to my best friends

Pat Dooley
Gator Sports
Pat Dooley fulfilling one of his many roles as sports columnist at The Gainesville Sun.

There is no Back Nine today, because I am truly on the Back Nine. 

My friend Scott Dombek refers to not stopping after playing 18 holes "an emergency nine," and I'm all in for that. Today, I officially end a 33-year career — half of my life — with the Gainesville Sun. The best part is I get to do it with my best friend Robbie Andreu.

There will definitely be an emergency nine. But that's not the story today. I want to finish my work at 2700 SW 13th St. by telling you how much I appreciate every person who has ever read anything I have written here in Gainesville. 

Every email, even the mean ones, were read. Of all the things I will miss about being a newspaper guy, all of you readers and podcast listeners are the hardest to walk away from.

Dooley Noted clips - Omny.fm

But I will say that there are a lot of other things I will miss. Certainly, the old days when the newspaper was popping and we would end each long workday at P.J. O'Reilly's. I will miss bowl games and hospitality suites where the hilarious stories would flow like the St. Johns River, even though they already had been told the night before. 

I will miss that feeling of writing a column, filing it and waiting for hours to find out what everybody thought of it. I will miss the really big games, the ones that were so big that you felt as nervous as the players.

But here I go, to new adventures with no regrets. 

Because there's nothing left on my bucket list.

The Sun played a major part in that. So did the teams I was fortunate to cover here. 

I'm a sports nut. So what's left? Super Bowls, World Series, national title games, meets and matches in every sport, the Masters (did I mention I played Augusta)? I am so grateful that I can walk away with an empty sheet of paper instead of a dozen things I wish I could do or see.

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So many special people have influenced my career, including my dad and late mom, who got me involved in loving sports and especially wanting to be around the Gators. My dad and I realized the other day that there have been four Sun sports columnists since he packed up his brand new wife and drove from upstate New York to Gainesville to start a life in 1952.

Joe Halberstein, Jack Hairston, Mike Bianchi, Pat Dooley. That's it. That's the list.

Bob Dooley, center with his sons, Pat, left, and Tim, during the 22nd annual Bob Dooley Golf Tournament at Ironwood Golf Course a couple of years ago. The proceeds from the The Bob benefit STOP! Children's Cancer.

I spent more than three decades at the Sun because Diane McFarlin saw something in me that I didn't see. She saw someone who could handle a sports staff even though he could barely handle his own life. I am forever grateful. 

And I have heard from so many who passed through here under my watch, people who have gone on to great things. And that makes me happy. 

It's also important in this final column to acknowledge Arnold Feliciano. If you ever in your life are fortunate to have a boss as understanding and caring as Arnold, a guy who expects the best from you and will do whatever it takes to get it out of you, a guy who will work harder than you do even when you think you're busting your tail, well, you're very lucky.

Obviously, working next to Robbie all these years has been special. My gosh, the road trips we could talk about. But those road trips started to lose their appeal and are one big reason why we decided to make them stop.

And, of course, my wife, Karen, who now has to get used to me being home a lot more, deserves so much credit for dealing with everything from the angry fits about getting beat on a story to me edging the paper in her direction to read what I thought was a good column. 

I could go on forever. The chance to cover Steve Spurrier for so long, come on. Who had it better from 1990-2001? And Billy Donovan? Two coaches who did what everyone thought possible, but improbable. 

Steve Spurrier, UF Athletics Ambassador and former player and coach, shows Sun sports columnist Pat Dooley a football program from the early 1960s in his office a couple years ago.

Shoot, everyone over there at the University Athletic Association, especially Jeremy Foley and Scott Stricklin. I can't think of anyone I didn't have a good relationship with and that was more them than it was me. We didn't have to agree on everything (especially when we nicknamed the UAA "The Firm"), but the respect on both sides allowed great things to happen.

As I wrap this up before the music plays me off, thank you so much for taking the time to read the thousands of columns and stories I have written. Readers are the lifeblood of every newspaper, and I felt like we connected, never more so than over the last two weeks with all of the well-wishes in texts and emails. People have mentioned to me that because of the virus, we can't have a big retirement party.

I've had one every day in November.

I love you all for being a part of my life, a huge part of my life. You went through every surgery with me, my daughter Jennifer's stint in the Gator band, the birth of beautiful Kelsey and her time as a Rowdy Reptile, on the road for some special celebrations with confetti, and tragedies such as the Olympics bombing. 

I will have new platforms, but it will never be the same as the platform I had at the Gainesville Sun.

You were my best friends. I love you all. I'm not going away, just somewhere else. Well, let my man Tom Petty finish it off for you.

Contact Pat Dooley at his new email address patrickdooley54@gmail.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.