From aspiring Mizzou football player to award-winning golf coach

A job reference from Mizzou’s legendary football coach was a catalyst in the career of a Hall of Fame golf coach who is an alumnus of the College of Education & Human Development.

Lowell Lukas (BS Ed `60, M Ed `65) had just completed his master’s degree and was teaching in St. Louis when he applied for a job at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). The hiring vice president called legendary coach Don Faurot, and Faurot’s reference got Lukas an equipment manager and athletic trainer job that would more than double his salary to $7,800 per year.

Lukas had practiced for Faurot as a 177-pound tackle on the freshman squad. He had beefed up from a construction job over the summer, and came into his sophomore year at 232 pounds, but an unfortunate accident derailed his football plans.

During spring workouts at Brewer Fieldhouse, Lukas was hit in the right eye with a 16-pound shotput. The injury required surgery, 26 stitches, and weeks in the hospital. It also meant the end of his football career.

In order to “keep his meals,” Lukas became an athletic trainer. After earning his degree in health and physical education, he took his first job as an assistant athletic trainer at West Point. He enrolled in graduate school after failing the physical requirements for being drafted into Vietnam. He got a job at an elementary school in St. Louis that allowed him to teach and complete his research. It’s from there that he packed his belongings and headed to Central Connecticut.

He started in the equipment room, doing laundry, intramural sports, and “anything else they asked me to do.” When the athletic director and golf coach was unable to coach the team one match, Lukas was asked to coach, and the team won. “You’re the golf coach now,” the athletic director said.

“If I do this,” Lukas told himself, “I do it full bore.”

Golf success

Lukas had some familiarity with golf, but he was by no means an accomplished player. Yet the teams he coached took on Lukas’s drive and, as Lukas puts it, “success breeds more success.”

“I had a lot of success along the way, but it really came down to recruiting the right type of players who wanted to excel, and then motivating them to realize their full potential,” said Lukas.

Full potential came in the form of 27 All-American players, five All-American Scholars, 15 team titles, and eight individual titles. His golfers represented New England in the national championships 24 out of 28 years.

His teams were in the nation’s top 20 in 14 different seasons at the Division II level, including five straight years in the top 10. In 1985, CCSU placed third in the NCAA Championships, and in 1984, Greg Cate was the NCAA Division II Individual National Champion.

Lukas won 80 percent of his matches, with a final record of 4,660 wins, 1,164 losses and 20 ties. When CCSU was in Division II, Lukas was twice named National Golf Coach of the year. When CCSU was moved to Division I, he won District Coach of the Year two more times.

Lowell Lukas and Jack Nicklaus during the Hall of Fame ceremony.

Lukas traveled the world, including California, New York, Mexico, and the legendary St. Andrews golf course in Scotland. Lukas was inducted into the Golf Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1993, in a ceremony that also honored Jack Nicklaus.

Despite all of his personal success, Lukas still sees the impact he made on the lives of his players as his greatest success. On an annual basis, he leaves his retirement home in Wisconsin to bring as many of his former players as possible to Florida to relive the college days on “backspin weekends.”

“I had a good run and a lot of recognition, but the truth is, my greatest reward has been the relationships with my former players over 50 years, and they still refer to me as coach,” Lukas said.