Did you know that La-Grange College has been the home of a nationally ranked division III men’s golf team since 1998? That’s right. Head Coach Lee Richter joined LaGrange College 24 years ago with a mission to build a top notch golf team and positively impact the lives of those young men who were under his direction. Since the first national ranking in 1998, which was barely in the top 25, Coach Richter took the team to the #2 seat in 2015 and finished #6 at this most recent National Championship hosted at Howey-in the- Hills, Florida May 16 – 19.
When asked what was most important in developing a consistently strong men’s golf team, he summed it up in a couple of key points: “(1) you must be able to recruit top talent and (2) golf is a mental game – you must be able to teach your players to balance their emotions – forget the previous shot or previous hole –whether good or bad – and focus on what is in front of you now.”
How does the team prepare for competition? They play golf – a lot of golf. Coach Richter does not rely on the putting greens and driving ranges to prepare his team for competition – he turns to four courses that the men are consistently playing throughout the year and more intensely starting in September as they prepare for the October tournaments. He is very appreciative of the support from our local courses that always open their doors for the team to play: Highland Country Club, The Fields Golf Club and Callaway Gardens. Without these courses to help prepare the team, Coach Richter does not believe he could develop the players to be nationally competitive.
The road to the National Championship is a little more challenging for LaGrange as there are approximately 300 teams in Division III and we play in the strongest region of the country. As such, in 2017 we finished 4th in our region and 6th nationally. Playing in the strongest region also presents a challenge in the selection of tournaments that our team plays in both the fall and spring seasons. Coach has consistently picked courses that challenge his players and develop their skills so that they can be nationally competitive. However, he also notes it is important to be consistent in the tournaments selected from year to year so that they players develop and perfect their skills on those particular courses and perform at a higher level.
Not only has the team scored national rankings and titles, the players have excelled on an individual basis setting a high standard for those that follow in their path at La-Grange College. Some of the awards include the following: LoganLanier finished fourth in the nation at the 2017 NCAA Division II Championship, he earned the first team All-American honors for the second year in a row, became a three-time PING All American, was selected to the USA South All-Conference for the fourth straight year and earned Division III Srixon /Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar honors. Osborn Theam was selected to the Division III PING South All-Region team. Anthony Scolapio and Eric Havixbeck also earned the Division III Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar in 2017.
LaGrange College will say farewell to a number of seniors that played their last game under Coach Richter this past week: Logan Lanier, Landon Hicks, Osborn Theam and Eric Havixbeck. They received their diplomas this past May 20 at the commencement ceremony and are looking forward to the next phase of their lives. We wish them the very best!
So what can we look forward to in the 2017 – 2018 season? Coach Richter says this will be another building year for the team. He is excited about the development of his returning players and the four talented freshmen that he has recruited to join his nationally ranked team in this next year – three from Florida and one from Georgia:Sam Rogers, Cameron Starr, Sam Hershoff and Ben Womack.
In just a few short months they will hit the greens as team and we know that there will be a lot to cheer about for our hometown men’s golf team!