By Mark Leach, Student Writer and Charmaine Lim, Editor-in-Chief
It’s no surprise that Messiah has had many sports programs come and go over the past 110 years. But not every one of these programs have lasted through the generations of students. Most recently, Messiah dropped the golf program as a varsity sport on campus. The discontinuation of the team left Messiah with 22 NCAA Division-III teams in 2018.
Messiah College’s golf program was discontinued in 2018 after 30 years of competing in the MAC Conference. Messiah’s first official NCAA varsity match was played on Apr. 5, 1988, against both Albright University and Franklin & Marshall College, with the last weekend of the program being on Apr. 28, 2017, at the MAC Championship in Hershey, Pa.
Former golfer and current senior Ryan Kirk was able to reflect back on his two years on Messiah’s golf team and how its disbandment has impacted his life since. Rather than mourn the team, Kirk chose to remember the two years he did have while the team existed.
When he began playing on the team, Kirk had not expected it to be terminated at the end of his sophomore year.
“Our coach built a culture that made it seem as though this program would never be discontinued,” Kirk said.
Head Golf Coach Troy Boone seemed to have the most impact on the golf program during his 12 season career at Messiah. His decision to return as head coach in 2006 allowed him to bring almost immediate success to the team. Under Boone’s coaching, the team won their first MAC Championship in 2010 and two conference titles in 2014 and 2015. His mentorship can be seen in Justin Sisson – Messiah’s best ever individual finish in 2015 in the NCAA Tournament, tying for 21st overall.
Kirk was coached by Boone his freshman year. His memories of their relationship were not limited to the golf course, but also outside of practice.
“He was already around when I came in as a freshman. [He] was a very personable coach that connected to us and mentored us even outside of practice and matches,” Kirk said.
One of Kirk’s examples of the team relationship built by Boone involved a trip to Florida during Kirk’s freshman year. Boone set the team up to match with other schools for the week.
“Every day in Florida was either the beach or golf course,” Kirk said. “Coach took it upon himself to set us up with schools to play against, and it was nothing but a great experience.”
After Boone’s resignation, Coach Pete Micklewright came in to finish out the golf team’s final season at Messiah. Though Micklewright had high expectations, there was some uncertainty as to how he would fill Boone’s shoes.
“Coach Micklewright was put in a tough spot where it seemed as though he was unsure how close he should be to the team, considering the precedent coach Boone had set prior to his succession.” Kirk said.
Despite the change in coaches, Kirk remembers the great leadership the team was provided that made it more enjoyable. This leadership also made Kirk’s own transition from the high school level to the collegiate level much easier.
Though it has been nearly two years since the team was discontinued, there are many great memories to re-live. The team’s record of three MAC Commonwealth Championships, three top three finishes, and many more individual player awards show how passionate and dedicated Kirk and his teammates were. It may not be as well known as Messiah’s other varsity teams, but their success will be remembered for years to come as a celebration of the hard work and strong leadership.
This article can be found in the October issue of the Swinging Bridge Magazine.