Kyle Long was the last golfer to win a tournament for Lambuth University. The United Methodist-affiliated school in Jackson, Tenn., announced it would close June 30 after 168 years of operation. The school endured years of financial struggles.
Lambuth, with 406 students, according to the school’s website, was a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and competed in the Mid-South and TranSouth conferences.
Long, a sophomore, took the individual title at the Martin Methodist Spring Invite with a two-round score of 147 at the Peninsula Golf Course in Gulf Shores, Ala. His victory came just weeks before the school announced it was shutting down.
“I was the last golfer recruited to Lambuth and the last one to win a tournament,” Long said. “That meant a lot to me. I clipped the field by a shot, and two of those guys I beat were high school rivals.”
With two years of eligibility left, Long will spend the rest of his college career at nearby Union University. Union offered him scholarship money to play for the team.
Long’s teammates graduated from Lambuth in May or are able to complete their coursework this summer. Senior Aaron Ingalls plans to play professionally, men’s coach Andy Farmer said.
Farmer said that the university was entering negotiations to join the NCAA when the team received word that the school was closing. Farmer will return to work at Jackson National Golf Club.
“When we officially heard it was closing, I was actually chipping and putting on the green,” Farmer said. “It wasn’t like I was really shocked, but it was still devastating when we were hoping to get into the NCAA.”
Kelsey Padgett, who played on the women’s team during her sophomore and junior years, said she doesn’t plan to continue golf when she transfers to Belmont University in Nashville.
Padgett said she loved her time on the team but that she’s not a solid-enough golfer to play in NCAA Division I.
“We may not have been a good team, by any means, but we were a fun team,” Padgett said. “Some of my favorite memories are out on the range practicing with the girls and laughing so hard because we were hitting so badly.”
The Lambuth athletics department shared coaches – Kevin Burton was the interim women’s golf coach and the men’s basketball coach. Now, he’s in the process of figuring out his next career move.
Burton said he knew the school had hit money troubles years ago. Still, he said, it always provided funding for equipment and tournament travel.
Before the last tournament for the men’s team, the coaches, players and their families went out to a local steak house.
“We all had filet mignon,” Farmer said. “We went all out. We had cheesecake and chocolate cake, and we don’t usually have a golf budget that allows for that. But we knew that was the final dinner we’d have before our last round as Lambuth Eagles.”