|Challenge of rebuilding dormant golf program appeals to Springs|
|Coach led Livingstone to CIAA prominence in 1980s|
|Published Thursday, March 18, 2010 11:00 am|
|Andre Springs, who coached Livingstone to the top of the CIAA golf heap in the 1980s, is back to revive the once-dormant program.|
SALISBURY – Andre Springs envisions a time when Livingstone College’s newly formed golf team wins the CIAA championship.
And while it sounds like a lofty goal, don’t be surprised if Springs has his way.
After all, when he coached golf at Livingstone from 1982-87, Springs led the Blue Bears to three consecutive CIAA championships. And in 1988, a year after Springs left for a job in Cleveland, his recruits won the National Minority Golf Championship.
Last week, Livingstone wrapped up its first golf competition at host Chowan in Murfreesboro, playing in the CIAA Western Division tournament.
“I’m not expecting to do that well with a beginning team, because you’re going to basically finish in the lower level,” Springs said.
To his delight, Livingstone actually finished sixth among nine teams, finishing ahead of Elizabeth City, St. Paul’s and Johnson C. Smith.
“We’re talking about a group of young men who, with the exception of one of them, had no golf experience prior to joining the team,” Springs said. “For them to compete in their first golf tournament and finish ahead of three competing CIAA schools is phenomenal. I was so impressed and proud of them. They really represented Livingstone well.”
Springs said he’s looking forward to next season because that team will include players he recruited. He basically put together this year’s squad in mid-season.
Springs had to canvass Livingstone’s campus to find golf players. In fact, two of his guys – Linwood Jenkins and Anthony Scott – are members of the Blue Bears football team. Jenkins is a running back; Scott is a fullback.
The other players are Kenneth Bethea, Kenneth Purefoy and William Jordan.
“I’m really excited about Kenneth Bethea, the only player you could say I recruited for this squad,” Springs said. “I’m going to build the program around him. He’s really special. I’m really looking forward to some great things from him, and he’s the team captain.”
Bethea captured individual first-place honors at the tournament in Murfreesboro, shooting a 69 on his first day and a 75 the second day. He won the tournament by four strokes.
It has been more than two decades since Livingstone fielded a team, yet revamping the program has been on the mind of President Jimmy R. Jenkins for quite some time.
“Livingstone student-athletes who participated in golf under the leadership of Coach Andre Springs really flourished,” Jenkins said. “They excelled on the golf course as well as in the classroom. This was way before Tiger Woods began dominating the sport, spiking interest in it among African-Americans. We’ve rehired coach Springs with the directive of bringing golf back to Livingstone and ensuring we have a top-notch program. I am confident that’s exactly what he’ll do.”
So are Springs’ friends and colleagues.
“I think he’ll make an excellent golf coach,” said Larry Frost, who met Springs about 30 years ago at Corbin Hills Golf Course in Salisbury. “He’s played high school golf, college golf and been a golf instructor. I think he’s an excellent choice for a college to pick as a golf coach. He knows they’re going to lose initially, but I think he’ll be able to handle it. He did it before.”
That’s true. When Springs became Livingstone’s coach in 1982, the Bears were in last place in the CIAA. Before long, they knocked off perennial powerhouse Fayetteville State and became the new rulers of the greens.
Ironically, Springs came to Livingstone after being a star at Fayetteville State. At FSU, the Broncos won the CIAA golf championship each of the four years Springs played; he was team captain as a junior and senior and won the individual CIAA championship as a freshman.
Springs became interested in golf as a kid when he and brothers Robert and Greg picked up balls at the Charlotte Golf Range where their great-uncle, Verley Thompson, worked.
“Our uncle was the groundskeeper,” Springs recalled. “I was around 5 years old and my brothers and I went to work on Saturdays and Sundays at 6 o’clock picking up the practice balls all over the range. I thought it was fun because we’d get there and my uncle would open the clubhouse and we’d get anything we wanted to eat like cookies and pies and things … but once we got out there it was tough and we still had to pick up the balls.”
Springs grew so enamored with golf he tried out for the team at Wilson Junior High School as a seventh-grader. He was cut. And again as an eighth-grader.
Finally, he made the team his freshman year and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today he works as a golf instructor at Birkdale Golf Club in Huntersville, though right now he’s concentrating most of his energies on building a quality program at Livingstone.
Former Blue Bears player Greg McCord said Springs will be an asset to the college, particularly the players he coaches.
“He was a hard coach in a lot of ways, not just on the golf course but also off the golf course,” said McCord, Principal of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg, S.C. “I credit him for being the type of man that I am today. He taught us a lot, but truth be told very rarely was it about your athleticism, your prowess on the golf course. He worked 90 percent on the mental side of golf and instilled confidence in me, in all of us.”
Charlie Clark, president of Par Busters Golf Club in Charlotte, agrees with McCord. Par Busters is among Charlotte’s oldest black golf clubs; Springs is a member.
“I know before Christmas some other people presented some opportunities to him, but his heart is at Livingstone,” Clark said. “He has a deep commitment for Livingstone and CIAA schools. Once you meet him, you can see where his passion is. Once you take a class from him, you can also see where his passion is for individuals in terms of teaching them the game. I think it’s a good choice for Livingstone to pick Andre as their golf coach.”
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