State Stories

11

100 Years of IHSA Boys Golf: Interview with Coach Dick Lounsberry

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This is one in a series of stories celebrating 100 years of the IHSA Boys Golf State Finals. Click here to view the other stories and here to order commemorative 100-year state final gear and pin flags.

Interview With Dick Lounsberry

by Matt Troha
Dick Lounsberry began his high school golf coaching career at Havana High School in 1964, a position he continues to hold today. Throughout the years, when the Ducks have not been playing in the state final, he often volunteered his time to work at the Class A and now Class 1A state final sites. The IHSA talked with the man who has been a fixture on the small school boys high school golf scene in Illinois for nearly seven decades.

Do you have any favorite memorable finishes?
The 1998 State Title that Havana shared with Quincy Notre Dame is, of course, the one that comes immediately to my mind. It was held at Prairie Vista Golf Courses in Bloomington that year; and the cold, windy weather was a problem for everyone. Winds hovering around 40 mph on the last day made golf shot accuracy difficult. It was blowing hard enough to move balls on the greens, putts that were supposed to break left would brake right instead, etc.
Havana (my team) and Quincy Notre Dame were locked in a tight battle for the Class A Boys State Golf Title. The 40 mph wind was causing many shots to drift far off their normal path. The short shots into many greens were particularly difficult, and out-of-bounds came into play many times. One minute Havana looked in good shape, and the next instance Quincy Notre Dame appeared to be on its way to repeating the last year’s title.
Finally, it came down to the 18th hole. The #1 players for both teams had a few problems and ended up with a bogey and double bogey respectively on their last hole. At that time there could be no communication between coach and player until play was finished so I finally headed to the scoring tent and “held my breath” until everything was compiled and posted.
Final results showed the two teams to be tied. This was the first time in the 83-year history of the Boys State Tournaments that play ended in a team tie. At that time, there was nothing in place to break a team tie at the Finals level. The fifth man score tie breaker used in Regionals and Sectionals was only used for advancement to the next level, so Havana and QND were proclaimed to be “Co-State Champions”.

How about any memorable moments?
A. I was in charge of the Rules Committee at the Arrowhead Sectional. As usual, spectators were advised to remain a distance from the golfers they were following. We noticed a mother who was right on the heels of her son so one of the committee went over to remind her of the distance rule; and came back just shaking his head and laughing. He was about 6’ tall and the mother was maybe 5’2”, but she stood right up and told him “if that kid of mine ever did anything I told him to do, it would be the first time in his life”.
B. I was on the Rules Committee at the Gibson Woods Sectional. I was in a golf cart on the 10th hole about halfway up the fairway (thought I was well out of range). One of the group on the tee hit a really great shot. The ball hit my cart so I got out to look for his ball. By the time the group caught up to me, I decided to raise the seat; and there sat the ball on top of the motor. I looked at the golfer and told him “You get a free drop.”
C. I was on the Rules Committee at Arrowhead Sectional Tournament and noticed this one player who seemed to be having a bad time. His ball was in a difficult place so I went over to see if I could calm him down. I asked what he thinking of doing. His reply: “sir, we are trying to ascertain that”.
D. Finals of one State Tournament at The Rail: The morning started with the Coaches Meeting when someone had concerns about a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and its effects on our Tournament (I thought of him as Hurricane Harry after that).
After play had started, I decided to check out play on the course. I noticed a player standing knee deep in water and yelling “I want out”. Apparently, the observer (Hurricane Harry no less) kept insisting he continue to swing. His group was sitting on the bank so I went over to talk with them. They told me the player’s tee shot hit the bank by the green and then rolled back into the water about an inch. He tried to hit it out, and it rolled back further into the water. “Hurricane Harry” told him once he tried to hit the ball out, he had to continue trying until the ball was out of the water. I conferred with the IHSA rep and he concurred with my opinion. Went back to the group, told “Hurricane Harry” to go into the Pro Shop and have a cup of coffee and a donut. Then pulled the player out of the water and took him to the drop zone. We had him count one stroke into the water, one stroke attempting to get out, one penalty stroke for laying out, one stroke from the drop zone to the green, and two putts for a 6 on the hole.

What kept you coming back?
I’ve been lucky enough to coach golf for 53 years, and it has been an important part of my life. Have wonderful memories of my “kids”—some great golfers and teams, interesting individuals, the feeling of accomplishment when they start to understand not only the mechanics of the golf swing, but the rules and etiquette as well.

It always makes me feel proud of my golfers whenever I hear positive compliments from other fans about their conduct as well as skills. In the words of “Hardy” from the movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, it’s the only game I know that you can call a penalty on yourself, if you’re honest. Our motto at Havana is: “Play with integrity, win with humility, lose with dignity” and I like to think that carries over into their lives as well.