Four-time national champion Choate leads Bearkats into Southland Conference tournament

Just call him Michael Jordan.

It may be an overstatement, but just like M.J., Sam Houston State interim men’s golf coach Ronnie Choate came out of retirement to help a team in their time of turmoil and need.

When former coach Mike Dirks left to accept an assistant coaching position at Southern Methodist University in January, Choate was glad to come back to the program he helped create in 1962 and maintained for three decades.

During his coaching career at Sam Houston State, Choate amassed nine conference championships (four Lonestar Conference, two Gulf Star Conference and two Southland Conference) and four NAIA national titles (1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981).

“I told [SHSU Athletic] Director Williams that I would stay until they found a coach, and so far it’s been a lot of fun,” Choate said.

The Bearkats are scheduled to finish out their season at the Southland Conference Championship beginning Monday at the Gray Plantations golf course in Lake Charles while the women’s tournament begins Monday, April 21 at the Beaumont Country Club in Beaumont.

“Right now the guys are studying the course layout,” Choate said. “They are studying a pre-game plan on how to play the course. We’ve contacted them about the type of grass they have and the type of greens so we can prepare here before we go.”

At Gray Plantations, the Bearkats will see a relatively short golf course (around 6,900 yards) with four par 3s (two on the front nine and two on the back nine) while the par 5s are relatively short, by Choate’s estimation.

In the month preceding the tournament, the Kats prepared with four tournaments throughout the Midwest and Southwest.

“The men have played really well, except for the last round at Wichita,” Choate said. “Our March schedule was brutal. We were in Louisiana, Arkansas, Arizona and Kansas.”

In the National Invitational Tournament in Arizona, the squad finished ninth, placing higher than such notable programs as Notre Dame, Tulsa, New Mexico and Iowa.

In the Arkansas-Little Rock First Tee Collegiate Classic, they placed first. Led by Beau Willis and Scott Kelly, the Kats claimed their first and, so far, only tournament title this calendar year.

To take home the conference championship and give Choate his tenth as a coach, the Bearkats will need to stay true to their game plan and execute well on the final four holes, according to Choate.

“I think if all five players are capable of playing, then we have a chance to win conference championships, and I know a little bit about them,” Choate said. “They are an animal of their own. It’s three days and whoever plays best wins. It’s not necessarily an indicator of who is the best team in the conference; it signifies and crowns a conference champion. A team can get hot for three days, a good team can get cold for three days and they can get cold for one day and lose by one. It is an end to a spring season, but I don’t know if it’s the true champion of who is the best because golf is measured over a long period of time.”

Leave a Reply