From its inception, the Lake Oconee Academy golf program has had success.
The program started seven years ago at the middle school level. Now, entering its eighth year, the program has four teams, including boys and girls squads at both the middle school and high school levels.
Recently, that success reached new heights as former golfers Ryan Smith and Katie Scheck made their debuts at the collegiate level. Smith is currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, where he made his collegiate debut in 2020-21. He was a part of the program’s first-ever state championship in 2018 as a sophomore. Smith was also a three-time Georgia High School Association Region Champion.
Smith said signing with the Badgers was a dream come true. “I have been a fan of Wisconsin my whole life,” he told Reynolds-LakeOconee.com. “My dad, Ted, played golf there and my entire family lives in close proximity to Madison. I visited recently and loved everything about the school and its golf program. After that, I knew it was the right choice for me.”
Lake Oconee Academy Athletic Director Chris Ingle expressed how proud he was of Smith’s accomplishment. “Ryan is a great example that hard work pays off,” Ingle said. “We are proud of his accomplishments and look forward to following his golf career for many years.”
On the other hand, Scheck’s career was a little more decorated. She graduated from Lake Oconee Academy in 2021 as a three-time state champion. Currently, she is enrolled at Penn State University, where she is a member of the girls’ golf program.
In 2018, she and former teammate Emma McCord won the Class A-Public state title in 2018. Scheck also won the school’s first-ever individual low medalist honor that same season. Scheck continued that success in 2019 as she helped lead the Lady Titans to a second consecutive state title, while also earning her second straight low-medalist honor.
Following the 2020 season, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she led her team to its third-straight state championship. Even so, Scheck won her third and final individual low medalist honor as a senior in 2021. She played on the GHSA Golf Coaches Association Junior/Senior All-Star Team. Scheck was also named the 2021 GHSA Golf Coaches Association Player of the Year for Class A-Public.
Scheck said it was a “bittersweet” moment after she won her final title at Lake Oconee Academy. “The emotions were really elevated and heightened about everything,” Scheck said. “I was like, ‘This is it. This is the last putt I am ever going to make wearing the LOA uniform. I am probably never again going to be on the same team as my sister and with the other girls.’ So, it was a great ‘goodbye’ to high school golf.”
Coincidentally, Katie's sister, Kelli, was a part of two of those state championship teams in 2019 and 2021. Now, she is a senior at Lake Oconee Academy and recently signed a letter of intent to play golf with Butler University in Indianapolis.
In August, Kelly said it is a goal of hers to play the sports collegiately. “Committing to Butler University is very exciting, especially since it has been my goal to play Division I golf in college since I first started taking lessons in first grade,” Scheck said. “It’s great to know all of my hard work has paid off. I am looking forward to playing at the next level and I feel honored that Coach Cates (at Butler University) is giving me this amazing opportunity. Can’t wait to be a Butler Bulldog.”
However, Smith and the Schecks aren’t the only Lake Oconee Academy golfers that are recently either playing or committed to playing the sport at the college level. Rylan Black, a senior at Lake Oconee Academy, recently signed to play golf at Kennesaw State University. He was a part of the Titans’ team that won the 2021 boys’ Class A-Public state title, while also earning the boys’ low medalist honor as a junior. After signing with the Owls, Black was satisfied with his choice. “I wanted to be somewhat close to home, and I really like the campus a lot,” Black told the Lake Oconee News in December. “I also like coach Odom. He has a lot of experience and can really help me.” This season, both the Titans and Lady Titans return a lot of talent from last season’s squad. Black said last season that he expects another state championship in 2021-22. “We, as a team, definitely would like to do the same thing next season,” Black said. “I am ready to see what we can accomplish.”
Georgia Bosart, who is a sophomore, said last season that she liked playing the sport with others. “It was so much fun because I have never had a team environment for playing golf,” she said. “I am really going to miss Katie (Scheck), but we have so many great players, especially in my grade, too. I am so excited for the next three years at LOA.” Willa Kent said that she is elated that more girls will be coming out for this year’s team. “Next year we will have a bigger team,” Kent said. “I’ve had a lot of girls come to me already and say they want to join the team.” This season, Ricardo Patton will return as the boys’ coach, and Ed Wilson is entering his first season as the girls' coach. Last season, Patton said he was extremely proud of the program. “It was truly a great day for our very talented LOA boys and girls golf teams,” Patton said. “What is special about our team are the other team members that pushed and challenged the area tournament participants to play their best. Thank you to Jacy Singleton, Rylee Oyler, Sydney Pattison, Sienna Wojciechowicz, Maddox Cantrell, Caleb Worth, and Tyler Ashurst for your hard work and dedication to this team. Coach Josh Martz and I are honored to coach this amazing group and look forward to helping both teams realize high expectations over the next few weeks.” The Titans and Lady Titans have already begun their 2021-22 seasons and hope to mirror their success in the past.
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Article by Lance McCurley, photos by Terry Massey, published in the March-April 2022 issue of Lakelife magazine. Excerpts from Lake Oconee News articles were used in this story. The LON is also published by Smith Communications, Inc.