Archives For Webster Groves High School

On July 10th, my high school golf coach, Loren St. Lawrence passed away. He had valiantly fought cancer for the past eight years. As St. Lawrence put it, “I got cancer but cancer didn’t get me.”

It had been many years since I had last seen “Coach”. We stayed in touch primarily through writing. He was a regular encourager of me even years after he moved back to his home in Oregon and would almost always write back commenting on this blog.

He lived a “brilliant life”.

He was a devoted husband to his wife Barbara.

He was an acclaimed and adventurous race car driver.

He was a tenacious marketer.

He was a fine, honorable golfer.

He was a counselor and mentor to numerous high school students.

He was a successful high school golf coach, leading my high school team to State.

He was not a father per se but he adopted countless high school students through mentoring.

I am one of those students. To me, he was “Coach”, my mentor. 

 

John Marecek, Rick Ewing, and I with Coach at the 1996 State tournament with Coach.

John Marecek, Rick Ewing, and I with Coach at the 1996 State tournament with Coach.

The very first day I moved from Kansas City to St. Louis in 1993, he found me and brought me into his office. I felt little hope before that time as a lost, shy freshman. He immediately plugged me in with Rick Ewing and the golf team and the rest is history. The next four years, Coach invested in me and helped shape me into a confident leader, eventually captaining our team. I am writing this while Open Championship (The British Open) is being played, which is fitting. Coach called me “Radar” because I had the uncanny ability to find missing golf balls. It always makes me laugh because I have lousy eyesight and I just thought I was lucky.
My friend Rick Ewing hanging out with Coach in his office in-between classes.

My friend Rick Ewing hanging out with Coach in his office in-between classes.

Our high school was a public school and our golf team had to compete with the most elite private schools of the St. Louis area. We had a big chip on our shoulder because of this fact and were driven to win but we didn’t know how. Coach recognized this and when he took over as coach he was committed to making our program as elite or better than the private schools. He was impeccably organized to ensure we trained well to compete. He tracked details of how we scored in our rounds including fairways hit, greens in regulation, and tracking putts. These details were usually only captured by college coaches. He even made us look good with better uniforms, bags and club covers. Coach organized spring break trips (with the great help of parents) to go to Florida to play when it was snowing back home. This helped us to keep our game sharp before the heat to the Spring season and were prepared to win. We won our conference tournament four years in a row, sent team members to state every year, and eventually sent our whole team there our senior year. Our senior year he began a new tournament that would serve as a mid-season NIT and we invited all of the top teams in St. Louis to compete. We won that tournament and it prepared us to beat those teams again in the District championship thus taking us to the State tournament.
After four hard-working years, the 1997 Webster Groves High School Golf team wins the District title (the best team in St. Louis)

After four hard-working years, the 1997 Webster Groves High School Golf team wins the District title (the best team in St. Louis)

To young men who played under Coach may not have recognized how blessed they were at the time but as they reflected on their experience later in life, I am sure they recognized how well they had it under Coach’s leadership.
There is not a day I do not go back to my days on the golf course with him or his office talking about life and golf or the random fun of the day. Although I do not play much golf anymore since my family takes up my time, I still cherish those years in the golf course with Coach. I think he would appreciate that and make sure I knew that golf is a game that I will be able to play until the day I die. After all, Coach had played all the way up until the past few years.
Coach’s wisdom and encouragement stay and have fueled me to live life with honor, humility and great adventure on and off the golf course..
Thank you, Coach for believing in me and all of us. Thank you for living well. See you on the links in heaven.
Godspeed,
Radar
Coach's Obituary that appeared in Salem, Oregon.

Coach’s Obituary that appeared in Salem, Oregon.

In the iconic animated movie The Lion King (1994), the main character, a lion cub named Simba, is forced to flee for his life after his uncle treacherously seizes the throne. Forced to grow up on his own in the jungle, Simba eventually has to come to terms with who he is, the rightful heir to the throne. Even though Mufasa, his father, is only present in spirit, he calls to his son. His father’s ghost-voice challenges Simba to remember who he is and to reclaim his destiny. Powerful yet tender, Simba says to his son,

“Remember who you are. Remember…remember…remember.”

lionking

Still photo from The Lion King (1994), courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

God gives us a memory so that we may learn wisdom from life’s lessons. There are times when our lives move so fast, we need to stop and go back to that physical or mental place where God spoke most clearly to us. When I visited the mountain in Sewanee Tennessee where my wife and I got married, it was a sweet reminder of the day God put us together as friends and then lovers. Hearing Woodie Guthrie/Wilco’s Remember the Mountain Bed song also brings me back to that time.

God uses such moments to help us remember something special to him.

Each June God reminds me about a beautiful week in 1994 at Young Life’s camp called Castaway Club. It was there I recognized I could not live my life without God; it was the culmination of a great spiritual journey. I am not completely sure if I knew what I was getting into, but each June I think back to that glorious week and thank God for extending his loving hand to a lost and confused fifteen year old.

God used many people to reveal himself to me in the time leading up to that week. God often works toward insights like mine years in advance. Here are the impactful events and scenes that led up to that beautiful week in Castaway.

  • My father grew up and went to Webster Groves High School. In his graduating class of 1963, he had a classmate named Nancy Fares (later became O’Donnell).
  • Although as a family we lived in Kansas City for many years, my father had a job opportunity in the St. Louis area. My family moved back my father’s hometown, Webster Groves in 1993. There, my parents reconnected with Nancy and her husband Mike O’Donnell. The move made me miserable. I was in counseling because I didn’t know how to share how I felt. It seemed l like I had no friends and no real purpose, and I was most likely in an undiagnosed depression. The O’Donnells then told my parents about a group called Young Life.
  • Not long after this, I got a call from a sophomore girl in my school—which I thought was strange. Her name was Molly O’Donnell. She was the daughter of Nancy and Mike O’Donnell, and she asked me to go to this thing called Young Life. I had no idea what Young Life was, but I was desperate for attention and said yes.
  • A day or two later, Molly and a car full of upper-class girls picked me up, and we drove to Young Life. I was a freshman in heaven.
  • Molly introduced me right away to an older man. He was known as “Herm,” though his first name was Dave. After Herm heard my name, he said, “Hey, my name is Dave too.” Herm was the Young Life Area Director. He took me under his wing. In addition, Herm’s wife Terri essentially became a second mother in the process and in fact to most of us at Young Life.
  • After that first night of “club,” as people in Young Life calls it, I was introduced to another David. His name was David Pendergrass. David, along with other older students drove me to club every week. They were the ones who walked alongside me, listened to me, and shared the great story of Jesus Christ with me—I’ll never forget it.  The boys of Young Life became the brothers I never had. Many of them are great friends to this day even though most of us have moved.
  • It all culminated at camp Minnesota at Castaway. There I had, as Young Life says, The Greatest Week of my Life. That’s no lie.
The boys from Wester Groves High School (Mid-County St. Louis) prepping for our volleyball tournament at Castaway.

The boys from Wester Groves High School (Mid-County St. Louis) prepping for our volleyball tournament at Castaway. This is where the nickname “Cheech” all began. Can you find me?

Each June, God calls me to remember and be thankful to him for saving me. In addition, I think about those who had the courage to approach me, be a friend, and share the great news of Christ. God calls me to be thankful for that time in Minnesota, and to pray also for everyone in Young Life going to camp this summer.

Tell me about how you came to accept Christ. It is a story we all should stand up and hear. 

When I was 8 years old my family moved across town in Kansas City and found a lovely house that sat above the first hole of an executive (shortened) 9 hole golf course.  Like most kids that age, I was playing soccer, baseball, basketball, and tennis.  Later I even tried football. I was doing way too much but my parents were just trying to test out what I enjoyed and fit me best.  My grandparents that year bought me my first set of golf clubs to try out this new sport.  Thankfully we had a tremendous local junior golf program and I began that journey.

I was truly  hooked at 11 when I played my first golf tournament outside of that course.  It was the United Commercial Travelers Junior Golf Tournament qualifier for the state of Missouri.  It was a mere 9 hole qualifier and the night before the area received a lot of rain, which discouraged many players from even showing up.  The field ended up being about a dozen golfers qualifying to go to the national tournament in Victoria, British Columbia.  I can’t even remember what I scored that day but it was enough to earn the victory and get a free trip to Canada for the tournament.  My dad accompanied me on that memorable trip.

I remember thinking, “Wow, all golf tournaments must be like this.  Winning is pretty awesome.”

I remember not playing very well in Canada but what it did do was hook me into the game and so I began giving up other sports one by one.  The person who taught me golf told me I had to either quit baseball or golf, my swing would be mess unless I did so.  My summers became filled with traveling around Missouri and Kansas, playing in golf tournaments and spending endless hours practicing on the driving range and putting green.  Golf to me was perfect for my personality at the time.

Individual.

Me versus the course.

Me versus the others.

It thought it was perfect.

My college days playing for The University of Evansville

When high school came along I played on the school team.  For the first time in my life I was part of a team.  A golf team?  It is an individual sport, right?  If you have seen The Ryder Cup or The President’s Cup you usually witness a spirit among those players that is unlike any other time in their individual tournaments.  You will see high fives and cheers for each other in individual matches to succeed as well as select formats of two-man best ball and alternate shot.  In team golf there are still individual awards for lowest score but the most important prize goes to the team that wins.

I was hooked.

Throughout high school and eventually in college golf I was a moderate success on an individual basis.  There are 5-6 players that play in tournaments and I was usually the #3-#5 player.  I don’t recall any major wins individually but I do remember every big win our team made.  Even on a day I had a double-eagle in a high school tournament, what was more prominent is that our team, the Webster Groves High School “Statesmen” won that tournament and eventually went on to the state championship tournament. I was elected Captain of the team so it was my duty and pleasure to celebrate that feat. It felt amazing.

The 1997 Webster Groves HS “Statesmen” golf team

Life can be an individual journey. It is your life to live.  But you can’t live it alone and you surely cannot succeed without others.  Even professional golfers have a team of people with them to motivate, teach, and even just listen to them. Most of us in our jobs today work on an individual basis. That mentality is wrong. Look at any successful person in life and you’ll discover their teams.

I love the teams I’m a part of today: My team at work, my church St. Bartholomew, my men’s group, my close friends from Young Life, friends in Kansas City, St. Louis, Evansville, and Nashville, and I would be lost as can be without my family.

My last hole in my college golf was memorable for the most inglorious reason. I duck-hooked my drive into a lake and ended up with double-bogey. I remember being mad at myself because I felt like I let the team down.

I was blessed to graduate a semester early and later the team won a big tournament that spring. That is what I remember most. I’ll take the Ryder Cup competition any day.

Tell me about your teams.