Transcript: Orange and Blue Podcast with Men's Golf Head Coach Scott Lokers

Alan Babbitt Welcome to the Hope College Athletic Orange and Blue Podcast. My name is Alan Babbitt, sports information director at Hope College. We look forward each week on this podcast to bring you interviews with some of our coaches, student-athletes, and administrative staff, and especially among these unusual COVID times, it's a chance when we're not busy racing around to practice and events to get to know our coaches and student-athletes just a little bit better. Glad to have with us the men's golf coach, Scott Lokers. Thank you, Scott, for joining us today. Why don't you start, give a little bit of update on your team?  Normally, we'd be in the midst of practice and competitions right now and tournaments and gearing up for hopefully a run for an MIAA championship. That's on hold until the spring as we work through the pandemic. Give us an update on your team. Where do you guys stand as far as a roster and figuring out who's plan and practice? What are you working on this fall?

Scott Lokers Thanks. I'm glad to be here. Always fun to talk about Hope College men's golf, so thanks for having me. Yeah, it's different fall, but I'm thankful that we can form a team and that we can play some golf together within the team. We have 11 players on our team this fall and we are really young, which is fun and gives us the challenge and fun part of trying to grow together. We have just one senior, Luke Tapani from Minneapolis area, just one junior Austin Zolman is from Grandville. We have four sophomores, Seth Almquist from the Minneapolis area as well. Tim Wageman, who went to school at Saline. Charlie Eriksen is from the Detroit area. And Jack Crawford is from Indianapolis. Carmel, actually. Then we have five freshmen this year. We have two from the Detroit area. Spencer Willington and Brian Marks. And then three freshmen who are local, Tualatai Chamberlin is from Grand Haven, Will Robson from East Grand Rapids and Logan DeWitt from Holland Christian. It's a group of fine young men and I'm enjoying getting to know them. What we've been doing is we have been practicing most weekdays and then also on Saturdays getting 18 hole rounds in. W getting a lot of chances to play and practice and starting out. The emphasis was really on competition within the team, trying to form a bit of a baseline. I'm hoping we're going to have tournaments in the spring and opportunity to compete for the chance to go to Nationals Division three national tournament, hoping there will be one this spring. I'm trying to get a baseline competition. And now we've been at it a few weeks and so slowing that down a little bit and still trying to keep some pressure on competitively, but also really try and help all of us get to know each other and build the culture of this team and make sure we're growing together and started pulling the same direction, so that's part of the focus here.

Alan Babbitt With building a camaraderie, a young group, I would imagine its advantage because you got a little bit more time to build that before you get right away in the competition, as you will in a traditional season.  What do you try to do to build that in a competitive sport, like an individual sport, like golf, where you're it's your shot and, you don't have an assist to make to a teammate or have to play defense or something like that? How do you build camaraderie for a golf team?

Scott Lokers I think that really is important in golf is an individual sport, but we play it as a team. The way I think about that, I'm asking all the guys on our team to improve and to be the best they can as individuals. When we compete in a normal year and also so this year, we're competing for some spots, as we think about the spring, and everybody on our team wants to go out shoot the lowest score that day. We want that. We want guys that are competitive and that's part of what sport is about. But along with that, we play it as a team, we're trying to help each other get better and better and we really care about the success of the team. And by success, I mean in every aspect, not just wins and losses, but in providing the best experience that we can together. I'm also asking these guys to be the best teammate they can be every day. So golf is a humbling game. And one of the ways I talk about this is so if we have a member of our team who has a career day one day and his good friend and the team has a subpar performance, I mean that in terms of doesn't perform very well that day. I am going to ask the one that did not perform very well that day to be happy for a teammate who played well. And when those roles are reversed, that it would be, again, a role of encouragement.  I think that really matters. I learned that from the previous coach, from Coach (Bob) Ebels. Some of his success was around. We do this together. We play as a team. We're playing for each other. At the end of the day, this is for Hope. This is for all of us, not just as individuals, but collectively as a matter to with the team.

Alan Babbitt I know every team has to identify leaders, but probably the best teams are the ones where really everyone is a leader and may have different roles, but everyone takes a leadership role. so it's not just falling on one or two people, right? 

Scott Lokers Any time you're coaching, so sport is what you're about. And I love golf. And all the guys on our team love golf, but it's about more than golf. The leadership aspect of trying to help them grow as leaders, they're trying to help each other. They help me grow as a leader.  We're always talking about those kinds of things, working on those kinds of things. One of the advantages for the fall — we're disappointed we're not playing outside tournaments — but one of the advantages is we get to do everything together, the entire team. One of the dynamics typically for a golf team is when we go to tournaments, you play five players and you count four scores. We do a lot of travel with just five or six of the guys. It's that like other sports, where you bring the whole team and you substitute as the contest goes on. We do a lot of travel with just five or six guys. This fall has been different in that way. We are doing everything together every day that we're together. I think that is an advantage for us, especially since we are so young and a big part of this fall is forming a team identity and growing together. The fact that we can do it all together I think is helpful for us.

Alan Babbitt It's challenging for a student athlete in a normal year with classes and social life and athletics and everything is they're trying to figure out what they want to build the foundation of their life. Obviously, we're in unusual times now with the pandemic and a lot of things are just not as they usually are. For you as a coach, what have you found that are unique challenges this year as you try to help your guys. Because there's got to be for some of them in particular, maybe all of them, more on their minds than there might usually be. What have you found and what are you trying to do to help them? Because I know it's not just about the game of golf for you.

Scott Lokers That's true every year, but I think this year is different. Like you say, there are more things going on. But in a sense, it's the same process to me. Part of what I enjoy in coaching golf is our team is a smaller team. We can interact in ways that maybe some other teams cannot, or at least they might have to work harder at it. I can connect with every player, a team. I try to do that regularly, not only. Again, we're all together, but also individually. I'm always going to ask guys on our team and I'll do this one on one. What are you working on in terms of your golf game? And I want to know that and I want to be helpful in that. But we also talk about what's going on with the rest of your life, in terms of school, at Hope and what's going with your family. Are there ways that I can help or at least listen and then part of our sport? We're competitive and we work hard. And the nature of our game is we can have conversations about a lot of things as we're working hard on our games. These guys are doing that with each other as well. It really does give many opportunities to be concerned about what's going on in in someone's entire life, not just the golf life. I would say especially, again, a bit of gift this fall with five freshmen. Freshmen just have a lot going on. Even this year, even though we're not playing tournaments, we hit the ground running with the golf team and they're just hit with a lot of things all at once. We talk a lot about taking care of yourself in the classroom, taking care of yourself physically, paying attention to the priorities, all those kind s of things.

Alan Babbitt For you, being a coach is a lot like your other job, which is being a pastor. In some ways, there is a lot of similarity, I would imagine, between the two. We'll start with just talk about how long you've been in ministry and where that started for you here.

Scott Lokers I have been at the ministry side of things for over 30 years. I was a local church pastor for most of that and served three different congregations and experienced all the joys and challenges that go with that. I love that part of my life. My wife Susan and I have done so much of that together. She's been just so helpful. The last three years now I've been working for our denomination, for the Reformed Church in America and a regional body within that denomination. I'm not serving a congregation anymore. I'm doing some consulting. I'm leading some teams. There is an amazing amount of overlap in the two jobs. The context is somewhat different. But, as a coach, so golf is the subject matter, but it's really a vehicle for investing in the lives of others. Same thing in terms of pastoring, especially my role now with the regional Synod. My work is really trying to empower others to invest in others, to help the people I work with. This to be true with the guys on our team live into their full potential. I believe that's God given. I want them to experience all that they can and as much joy and deal with the challenges head on. It isn't about me, both jobs. It isn't about me. It's really about trying to empower others, poor and others. I've had lots of people have done that to me, for a lot of years. Part of the joy of this is being able to try and do that for others. That's really good fun.

Alan Babbitt Was being in the ministry something you knew right away when you were young you wanted to do? Did you get into adulthood and find it? I know some of the pastors I've met and had in my life. There's always seem to be different stories of different ways. They found their calling the ministry. How did that come about for you?

Scott Lokers I went to Hope 100 years ago, a math major and a business minor and secondary education. I came from a family of educators. I did teach for two years, but had quite a struggle actually, with call the ministry that went on for a couple of years and finally decided that's what I needed to do, go to seminary. After two years of teaching - I taught at Chicago Christian High, southwest suburbs of Chicago. Then Susan and I came back to Holland. I went to Western Seminary. It was a process. I didn't grow up thinking, oh, I want to be a pastor. It was more I felt called to be a pastor, in fact, tried to avoid it for a while and just decided I couldn't avoid it.

Alan Babbitt The game of golf, obviously, has been a big part of your life. When did when did you first start playing the game?

Scott Lokers I grew up playing golf. It's really a passion. My dad is now almost 102 years old and this was our thing. My dad and then my older brother Ray and I played a lot of golf.

I was just really something I'm thankful for. It was a gift to me. A lot of time with my dad and my brother and then other people as well. But around golf. We all love golf and it gave us a common passion. We're just always working at the game. My dad was a pretty good player and taught me the game. That's really where it came from. I love so many things about golf. I love being outside. I love it that it's a game of honor and character. No other game I know of you call your own penalties, really. You are in charge of your own score. There are checks on that, but still it's different that way. You never master it. You're always working at it. Dad isn't doing it this year. But last year at 101 years old, he'd still go to the range and hit them golf balls. And we could be there together. There are not many games. I know that you can still be having fun playing the game with your dad, who's 100 years old.  It was just our thing growing up. Then I was fortunate to be able to play golf at Hope as well, high school and then at Hope.  I still love to play competitively. Part of that is that I love to compete, but part of that is it helps me as a coach. I think. It reminds me there's a big difference in a competitive round playing competitively or just going out with your buddies and playing a round golf. I like to stay at it for that reason, too. It reminds me competitive golf is a hard thing. It reminds me what our players are going through every day.

Alan Babbitt Your dad. I've had the fortunate to write a little bit about him, just an incredible man and then incredible accomplished athlete on top of that. Are there times you just as you've watched your dad grow in these years do you just shake your head or do you stop being surprised what he's able had been able to do his whole life and do it with such joy. That was the other part with your father. It was just pure joy. And it's just been amazing to get to know and observe him a little bit.

Scott Lokers He's my dad and I probably for too much of my life took a lot of that for granted. That's just the way Dad is, Dad was. We just did things. And he loves sports. He loves to be active. We just did all kinds of sports. But there are moments and especially when others will comment. The kind of words you just said and others will say certain things like that for me, some of the big aahs and really fun. There's a thing called the senior Olympics. And if you are 50 years or older, you can compete. And there are national games that are held every other year. My dad has done that for a lot of years. Once I turned 50, I started doing it with my dad. To travel to different places on national tournaments is Hope all different places. Dad developed a reputation there that as he got older and older and finally hit the 100 year mark, that people just knew who he was and would see him every time we'd go to that. I would just sort of laugh and take that all in and realize there are not many people who have been able to do that kind of thing in their lives. Dad knows that he's been blessed to do and he's thankful for that. I'm certainly thankful to be able to have been the recipient. I talked about, you know, part of my work is pouring into other people. Well, people of in my life, certainly one of the people at the earliest moments is my dad, obviously. I'm the beneficiary of that. It's really, really been fun and I'm thankful for it.

Alan Babbitt I would encourage anyone listening. Google Ray Lokers. L-O-K-E-R-S. You will find some stories. I just popped it up myself and story from the Sentinel and when he was 99 doing his bowling and golfing and all that. It's a fun, fun thing to watch and certainly spend some time researching him a little bit. He's been a treasure. What are you going to be doing at 100? Have you got your kind of itinerary Scott?

Scott Lokers I'm trying to take care of it today. We'll see how that goes. He certainly is an inspiration.

Alan Babbitt Your time at Hope. Tell us that story. How did you get involved with coaching? I know you started as an assistant coach under Coach Ebels. who built a tremendous program. You have been been the head coach the past few seasons. How did you get involved with coming back and coaching here for the Flying Dutchmen?

Scott Lokers This really is one of the unexpected joys of my life. I love Hope. I love Hope golf. Was never on my radar till 10 years ago. I was playing golf with Coach Ebels through a mutual friend. We played a few times that summer. We got to the end of the summer and we were headed in for lunch after a round of golf and he said to me, 'Scott, What do you think about helping me with the Hope team?' I said, What? He said, 'What do you think about helping me with Hope team. I said, You're kidding.' He said, No. I was a pastor at the time at Overisel Reformed Church and it was never on my radar, knowing that I can think of is I don't know how those two worlds would ever fit together. In fact, that's what I said to Bob. I said, I don't see any way that my schedule would allow me to do that. I got home and I just mentioned it to my wife that Bob had asked me about helping him with the team. She just said right away you do have great fun at that. She said, I could see you doing it. I mentioned it to our two daughters. One of them played golf for Hope. And each of them said, oh, Dad, you would have fun with that and I could really see you doing that. I got to thinking maybe I responded a little too hastily. I called Bob back and I just said, 'What would that look like?' So that started the conversation. But then I needed to share it with our congregation, with the leaders of our congregation, because I thought, well, there are a lot of things I do I don't ask their permission, But this seemed like big enough if I should. And I was quite amazed actually. They did not bat an eye. I thought that's not what we're paying you to do. They did not bat an eye. They said that seems to fit with who you are as a person and what you love to do. They began to see it really as part of ministry. That opened the door. For six or seven years, I had the privilege to be Bob's assistant, a really wonderful experience, a chance to watch and learn. I'd coached before, actually. I taught before I went to seminary. I was a basketball coach and a golf coach, actually. I had some coaching experience, but it had been a lot years before so I had a chance to watch and learn. Then when Bob retired, then they asked if I'd take it on. And it really has been so much fun. I love Hope. I love golf and Hope student-athletes are just the best, I think. I learn every day. One of the unexpected joys of my life.

Alan Babbitt Funny how that work sometimes as an athlete. Just amazing if we just get out of the way and let God's plan just kind of be it can work out a lot of times, too. Thank you for joining me today. Scott on the Hope Athletics Orange and Blue Podcast. Looking forward to watching your guys. It's been different for me, too without games. I'm kind of itching to have something to do on a Saturday. But we'll get here soon. We appreciate your positive support and helping them out. We'll look forward to seeing you in competition soon.

Scott Lokers Alan, thank you. Thanks for your work.

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