After more than 30 years as a physical education teacher and 25 as a coach, Hays High School golf coach Mark Watts decided it was time to enter retirement last week.

Watts hopes to resume his lengthy coaching career after a mandatory 60-day break expires but understands it’s not entirely his decision.

“That’s something I have to apply for,” Watts said.

While he looks forward to golf, more time with his grandchildren and travel, the decision to retire was a difficult one.

With district-wide negotiations ongoing, Watts elected to step away after 34 years served mostly as an elementary physical education teacher to protect his benefit package.

“It was hard handing those keys in and saying goodbye,” Watts said.

His final sendoff is still to come, however. His retirement from coaching doesn’t go into effect until September, and the Indian girls, who won a Class 4A Division I state championship a year ago, host their tournament on Aug. 31.

Watts said he could offer individual lessons during the time he is not allowed to coach. He’s also considering returning to the classroom on a substitute basis or finding other work at one of his other favorite places, a golf course.

The school has come to an agreement with a new coach for the rest of the fall season, but the name is not being released until the paperwork is complete, he said.

Watts believes the new coach is walking into a great situation. The Indians return some experience and host the state tournament this year.

“Those were factors I had to weigh,” he said. “It was tough.”

Working in the district where his father previously served on the school board provided “a lifetime of joy,” Watts said.

“Being a part of the Hays school district has been a dream of mine,” he added.

In his time as a teacher, Watts taught children of his former students and joked that it was time to leave before meeting his earliest student’s grandchildren in a gymnasium or classroom.