After a successful playing and coaching career at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Ben Rickett wants to try his hand at starting from scratch.
He’s getting the chance at Dalton State College.
School officials announced Thursday that the Mocs assistant coach is the Roadrunners new golf director, a full-time position he will begin Monday. Rickett will coach the men’s team starting in the 2013-2014 season and also might coach the women’s team.
Roadrunners athletic director Derek Waugh said Rickett reached out about joining the Dalton State athletics staff before any position was advertised.
“He got a lot of great recommendations around town from a lot of people who know golf,” Waugh added. “If you look at natural fits, UTC right up the road has one of the best programs in the country.”
Rickett, 25, played at the school from 2005-2009, earning All-Southern Conference recognition twice and appearing in two NCAA Regional tournaments. He believes this will be an opportunity to take what he has learned at UTC over to the fresh-starting Roadrunners.
“I’m really excited about Ben. I think he’ll do a great job,” said Waugh, who announced in October plans for the golf program to practice and play home matches at The Farm Golf Course in Rocky Face.
The original plan was for the school to begin the sport during the 2014-2015 season, but finding a home course jumped the plan ahead one year, and hiring Rickett means recruiting can begin.
“In my eyes, I knew the original plan was to start in the (2014-2015) season for golf,” Rickett said. “It was not going to be one of (Dalton State’s) original sports, so you keep an eye on things like that — is it an opportunity for me to move up in my career?
“It will be nice one of these days to look back and say this is something that has been created from nothing.”
Rickett, a native of Surrey, England, moved to the United States when he was 18 years old to play at UTC. He also won the 2010 North Georgia Invitational golf tournament at Dalton Golf and Country Club and caddied for Steven Fox this year when he won the U.S. Amateur. Fox is a senior this season for the Mocs, who won the Southern Conference title and their Regional championship in 2012 and finished 14th in the NCAA Championship. The team finished 18th in Rickett’s senior season.
Still, he wanted to take a chance leading a program with no recent history whatsoever, much less history of success — the opposite of UTC.
“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity,” Rickett said. “I know that I’m excited to work with Derek and (assistant athletic director Richard Skeel), and I know they’ve very enthusiastic about what the program has to offer. I know it’s brand new, but it’s got a great base to it and is definitely headed in the right direction. I’m excited to join their team and hopefully push this program in the right direction.”
In July, Rickett married Northwest Whitfield graduate Shelley Taylor, who met Rickett while she was a member of the cross country and track and field teams at UTC. She is a pre-kindergarten teacher at Valley Point Elementary as well as an assistant cross country coach at her high school alma mater, where she will coach the Lady Bruins track and field squad for the first time in the spring.
In high school, Taylor won Class 5A state titles in cross country and the 3,200-meter run during her sophomore season. Also a three-time letterman in basketball and Northwest’s homecoming queen as a senior in 2005, she earned multiple athlete of the year honors from The Daily Citizen, including four straight Spring Female Athlete of the Year awards. At UTC, she earned all-Southern Conference honors for both academics and athletics.
The couple lives in Dalton, and Rickett gets the sense there is enough talent in the Northwest Georgia area to recruit a solid team in time for next fall.
“The hard thing is obviously the early time frame of getting the team ready for the 2013-14 season,” Rickett said. “Both men and women, you’ve got to get at least five players recruited and signed. Facility-wise, though, I think we’ve got one of the best facilities in the country with the Farm, so that will help with recruiting, that I can take someone out there. Every time I go out there it takes my breath away.”
Decisions of who to add alongside and below Rickett will come in the future.
“He will definitely be the head coach of the men’s team,” Waugh said. “He might potentially be the head coach of the women’s team for the first year or two and have someone assist him.”
Waugh plans to at least hire a part-time assistant coach for the women’s team.
Rickett marks the seventh addition to the athletics staff, including senior associate athletic director Richard Skeel. Golf joins men’s and women’s tennis and cross country, men’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and competition cheerleading as Dalton State’s start-up sports for next school year. Coaches have been hired in all sports except for cross country.