Becka right at home with St. Andrews men

Lisa Becka talks with Richard Caisley during the first round of the Golfweek Division II Spring Invite.

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REUNION, Fla. – Attached to the steering wheel of Lisa Becka’s golf cart are the usual scorecards, rules sheets and course notes you might expect to find among any college golf coach’s files. Becka’s scribblings, however, are complete with something unusual: grocery lists. After all, how else is she expected to keep her St. Andrews Presbyterian players running if she’s not whipping up feasts every night?

It could be said that Becka, the only female coach among the 17 teams in the field Sunday at the Golfweek Division II Spring Invite, pays slightly more attention to details than her counterparts. Consider, for one, the feast Becka’s seven players met when they entered their villa Saturday evening following the event’s practice round: pork tenderloins coated in garlic, baked potatoes and a fresh batch of cookies. For the most part, her players don’t notice that she’s any different than the next coach – on the course anyway. And as for the baked goods, well, keep ’em coming.

“I try to make everything fun for them,” Becka, 44, explained in the relaxed way of speaking with which she addresses all matters on the course.

Becka might be slightly more of a mother hen, but she draws a serious amount of respect from her players. As the head coach of both the men’s and women’s golf programs at St. Andrews Presbyterian, Becka is responsible for overseeing 10 men and six women. Between traveling with both squads and fitting in time to attend to all 16 players’ needs, Becka is one busy woman.

Becka is certified as an LPGA Class A professional, and competed in LPGA, Futures and mini-tour events for eight years. Her players actively seek her help when on the range back home in Laurinburg, N.C. Senior Jack McClelland maintains that Becka’s style is very much anything goes when she’s palling around with as many as eight college guys. Sometimes the coach is even quicker to the punchline than the players.

“It’s a mother figure but not a mother figure because she takes care of you but when it’s time to get down, it’s full-on. She’s probably more full-on than a male coach,” McClelland said. “She’s determined, she wants to win, but she knows that she’s got to be soft in the right places but hard at the same time.”

McClelland and his teammates spend a good amount of time on the course ribbing their coach, but Becka also speaks to their protective nature. After climbing down into a deep waste bunker in Round 1 to help Richard Caisley choose the highest-percentage shot, Caisley offered the coach an arm, pulled her back up to the grass, then blasted out through the hole Becka had indicated. A few minutes earlier, Becka had criss-crossed much of the golf course in order to deliver cold medicine to an ailing Caisley.

“I pick and choose my battles,” she said of team communication. “I don’t want them to be afraid to say anything. My older guys, who’ve been with me four years, they keep me in the loop.”

Becka’s squad is a heavily international one, and she’s already talking about next year’s recruiting class, which includes a player from Scotland and Sweden as well as a local North Carolina standout. In the same vein, however, St. Andrews Presbyterian shot down the rankings after two players from the U.K. returned home at the start of the season. Becka is well aware that the Crusaders are the lowest-ranked team in the field this week at Reunion.

“We went from competing to participating this year,” Becka laments.

When five seniors graduate in the spring, more rebuilding is in the future. In Becka’s four-year tenure, the team has never advanced into regional play. A little more drilling in practice might make it happen, but that isn’t Becka’s style.

“I could stand out there and drive them hard and they would hate golf,” she said. “You have to evaluate what you have and make the right decision on how to coach them.”

When Becka arrived at St. Andrews Presbyterian, she was never supposed to stay this long. Becka, who hails from Columbiana, Ohio, was the director of golf at her family-owned and operated 18-hole golf course, Copeland Hills Golf Club before selling the facility in 2005. Becka heard about the St. Andrews opening from longtime friend Janet Carl, the head women’s coach at the University of Cincinnati, and only intended to clean up the program before moving on. Now she is preparing to send off the first class of seniors she saw through from their freshman year, and still is figuring out how to divide her time among two programs, juggle a non-traditional coaching career and develop a well-rounded student athlete.

“Everybody is fighting for a piece of your time,” Becka said. “... I never realized what went into it.”

Much of what Becka contributes, however, isn’t in the job description.

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