Originally created 05/08/00

Thomson golf coach leads team to finals



Sometimes people wonder how much longer Dale Ricks will continue to coach golf at Thomson High.

But each time it seems Ricks is about to hang up his golf clubs and shoes, he can't help but want to do it for just one more season. Then when the next season comes, he says he wants to do it just one more year, and so on.

He's been semi-retired from teaching since 1994. However, he continues substitute teaching and volunteers his afternoons during the spring to coach the boys golf team.

"I've already told them I'll do it again next year," said the 59-year old Ricks, who leads his Bulldogs into the Class AAA state golf tournament this morning at Goshen Plantation Golf Course.

"I make those decisions one year at a time. I did give up on it one time back in 1988 and didn't take it back until 1993."

In his career at Thomson, Ricks has won two state titles, once in 1980 and again in 1982. Although it's been nearly two decades since he has led Thomson to a title, the Bulldogs annually are considered one of the teams to beat in Region 3-AAA.

This season, they didn't finish as the region champion, finishing second to Statesboro. But the Bulldogs still will be one of the 16 teams vying for the Class AAA title today.

This team hasn't gotten the hype some of Ricks' other teams have gotten, but he believes his club can stack up with the state's finest.

"This team is as talented as any team I've ever had," he said. "Of course, the state (competition) has gotten so much better than what it used to be. What it takes to win state now is so much greater than what it used to take to win state back then (in the 1980's).

"I think there are probably seven or eight teams (in the state tournament) who are capable of winning it all."

Ricks, who has coached professional golfers Franklin Langham, Jeff Knox and former Troy State standout Troy Williamson, isn't short on talent this season. He has another future college standout on his team this season in Georgia Tech signee Wren Fowler.

However, it remains to be seen whether the Bulldogs will have an advantage playing at Goshen, a course Thomson is very familiar with and plays at least once a year.

"We've played there several times, and I say playing (at Goshen) should be to our advantage," Ricks said. "Sometimes when people think you should have an advantage by playing at a course close to home, it doesn't always work out that way.

"I remember having a good team back in 1979 and playing on a course close to home and we finished 20 strokes higher. It puts the pressure on you. But I guess overall it gives you an advantage."

The Class AAA field boasts one of the top golfers in the country in Madison County senior and defending Class AAA low medalist Ryan Hybl. The Georgia signee is the son of Madison County football coach Tom Hybl and the younger brother of Georgia golfer and former Georgia backup quarterback Nate Hybl.

Madison County didn't make the 16-team state tournament field, but because Hybl finished as the Region 8-AAA low medalist, he qualified for the state tournament and will get a chance to defend his title.

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.