Lee White takes the coaching mantle at storied Florida Southern

Coach Doug Gordin, FSC Men's Golf at Saint Leo Invitational, (9/28/15); Lake Jovita Golf Club; Dade City, FL Florida Southern

Lee White takes the coaching mantle at storied Florida Southern

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Lee White takes the coaching mantle at storied Florida Southern

Florida Southern College once finished second at Valdosta State’s tournament and as the team van picked up a little speed out of the parking lot, Doug Gordin rolled down the window and hurled the trophy into the bushes.

“We don’t finish second,” the coach told his players.

Wayne Raath remembers it being quiet the rest of the way back to Lakeland, Fla.

“He did love winning,” Raath said.

Winning has become a tradition at Florida Southern, a program with an NCAA Division II record 13 national team titles and nine NCAA individual crowns. Two coaches built the Mocs’ legacy: the late Charley Matlock (seven titles) and Doug Gordin (six). The school’s first national team title came in 1981 and its most recent in 2017.

Gordin stepped down last spring after 39 years of coaching, including 23 at Florida Southern, and passed the torch to Lee White, a former player and assistant coach who welcomes the challenge of following two coaching giants.

“I want that,” White said. “I wouldn’t want to coach somewhere where you’re not expected to win or compete for championships. … That’s why I wanted to play golf here, because the expectation is so high it pushes you. As a coach, it’s the same.

Hopes to shoot his age one day

Gordin, 62, was on his way to Utah to visit family when he picked up the phone. He could finally escape the unending rain and steamy weather that September brings to central Florida. Yellowstone was on the agenda.

Besides, Gordin’s aim is to stay out of White’s way as much as possible. It’s hard enough taking over for a coach that’s been successful without having him hover.

“I learned that from Charley (Matlock),” Gordin said. “Charley never came around.”

Coaching didn’t come with a manual and neither does retirement. Gordin said he’s needs new goals now that winning championships is off the list. He plans to lift weights at the school’s Wellness Center for the first time in a couple decades and work on his golf game. Gordin’s father Dick, a legendary coach in his own right at Ohio Wesleyan and one of 14 original members of the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame, shot his age for the first time at 71. Gordin hopes to beat that.

But the job was always more than trophies and scores. Gordin treasured time in his office with players, offering advice on golf and preparing them for life.

“I’m not talking to anybody now except myself,” he said.

From his father, Gordin learned what it means to run a program with class and integrity. He wasn’t afraid to bench players who failed to put integrity above all.

The close calls were as unforgettable as the victories. FSC lost three national titles on the last hole during Gordin’s tenure.

In 2007, the Mocs were tied with Barry standing on the 18th tee. A pair of bogeys up the last cost Florida Southern the championship. Gordin can still picture the two players who made bogey face down in the parking lot sobbing.

“I think there’s a lot to be taken from how you lose,” he said, “and it just showed me how much it meant to those guys, and that meant a lot to me.”

The Florida Southern College men’s golf team receives 2016-17 national championship rings.

Gordin preached short game and psychology, often carrying a wedge or a putter at practice. He was stern but knew how to keep his players loose.

It’s probably not a coincidence that some of the best players in school history camped out in the coach’s office. Tim Crouch, a two-time NCAA individual champion now playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada, was in there five days a week.

“I’m sure I wore him out,” said Jeff Klauk, a former PGA Tour player who won three NCAA team titles and one individual championship (2000) at Florida Southern.

White was the same way.

“Lee was a younger Doug Gordin at that age,” Crouch said. “He was always on point, first one to practice, last one to leave. … I really looked up to Lee because he did everything the right way.”

‘The ultimate professional’

White is collecting PGA Tour bags from alumni for his office. Klauk, who reaches out to White regularly, shipped one down. Two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen, Rocco Mediate and Marco Dawson are notable Mocs from Matlock’s era.

White spent four years working as an assistant coach at FSC before taking over for Gordin, who toward the end gave all recruiting responsibilities to his successor. White brought in a class of six freshmen this fall.

“The way I feel about it is if he’s successful, I’ll say they’re mine,” joked Gordin. “If he’s not, I’ll say they’re half his.”

Athletic director Pete Meyer called the decision to hire White a “no-brainer.”

As general manager of Lone Palm Golf Club, home to the Mocs, Raath has worked closely with White in recent years.

“He’s the ultimate professional,” said Raath, who won three team titles at Florida Southern.

Said former teammate Brian Richey: “He bleeds Florida Southern.”

Two traits that were paramount to Gordin.

“When I got this job I thought to myself, how do I take a program that’s already great and one of the best in all divisions, how do I put my own stamp on it?” White asked. “What could possibly make it better?”

Depth.

White remembers having to shoot under par to make the lineup when he was in school. It was a dogfight. At the first qualifier of the season, nine out of 10 players had a chance going into the final round.

“I want to have to make tough decisions,” White said.

At a school that expects greatness — those won’t be in short supply. Gwk

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