Lyman Ward starts golf program, partners with new Stillwaters ownership

Pictured, from left, are Lt. Col. Pat Kelly, Christopher Matricia, Rogan Norrell, Corey Colvin, Stillwaters owner Keith Hiett, Stillwaters PGA Golf Pro Rob Witherington, Thomas Young, Tyler Sumner and Christian Weckwert. | Robert Hudson – The Outlook

This week was a week of firsts for Lyman Ward Military Academy as they teed off for the first time with their new golf program.

LWMA began practice for the first time with its new golf program, announcing Stillwaters Golf Course as its home course.

“We don’t have a golf course, and we actually just made ourselves a green, but we needed a place where the cadets could actually learn how to golf,” said Lt. Col. Pat Kelly of LWMA, who will serve as the coach. “So, I came out to Stillwaters and met Rob, and he just volunteered. He’s already given them one lesson on how to hit with the irons. They’re excited because we’ve never had this type of opportunity before.”

Rob Witherington, PGA Professional and Director of Golf at Stillwaters, said the partnership fits in perfectly with the mission of a golf pro.

“As a PGA Professional, my primary focus daily is to take care of the business here, but also to promote the game of golf and expand it,” Witherington said. “So anybody that shows an interest in golf, the pro is there for them. So, when Pat came by – he’s one of our residents on site and a part of our family here – he asked will you partner with us and went over the details. I said this can work.”

Witherington joined as the new golf pro at Stillwaters, which is under new ownership in Keith Hiett.

Hiett said serving as the home course of LWMA is a great way to spread interest in the game of golf.

“We’re excited about it. We feel like to make this place successful, we’ve got to help people and part of that is growing the game,” Hiett said. “That’s what’s big for us. Rob is going to be a big part of that because a part of his job is growing the game. Part of growing the game is getting youngsters involved.”

Kelly said the cadets also show their appreciation for being able to use the course through various projects at Stillwaters.

“Community service is important, especially for the cadets, and they wanted to do something to give back to Stillwaters,” Kelly said. “They’ve got a lot of different jobs that we can do here, and in fact the cadets put in a couple hours the other day pressure washing. They want to give back because they appreciate being able to come out here.”

Witherington said he is happy to be able to help out, as he has shown some of LWMA’s new golfers the basics of the game.

“So, it’s my time and energy and our wonderful facility that are available to these young men,” Witherington said. “They did a great job in their first clinic that we did, and we’ll just continue to work on their game and help them improve. At some point, we’ll let them loose on the drive range and let them practice a bunch and they will then go on the course and play some real golf.”

While the season of competition does not start until the spring, Kelly said the cadets have a lot of time to get practice on their game.

“We’ll start competing in February, so that will give us plenty of time to practice,” Kelly said. “We’ve got different skill levels – some of them are just starting off and some of them can drive the ball 325 yards.”

Christopher Matricia, a senior on the team, said the new team is a great way for him to get back into the game and hopefully one day take his abilities to the next level.

“It gives me a chance to continue to play the game of golf while I’m at school away from home,” Matricia said. “I started playing when I was 7, stopped when I was 12, but I’ve picked it back up last summer. I hope to continue to build my game and hopefully play in college.”

Junior player Corey Colvin said he is excited to be a pioneer with the school’s first golf program.

“It means a lot because when I looked at the website for the school, I wanted to see if they had a golf team, but they didn’t. Once I got here, they started it, so I was happy with the fact that I could play while I’m here,” Colvin said. “I’ve been playing since I was three. I want to get as good as possible so I can go play in college. I feel like I can do that with this program.”

Witherington said he will continue to work with the golfers through the leadup to the season.

“It’s all about golf development right now. Some of the young men have some experience playing and I could tell that from when they first swung the club,” Witherington said. “A lot of them are beginners. I will take them through all phases of the game, but the main thing is to have it where they enjoy the game of golf. But I do want to have them ready to compete in February and not just have fun.

“It’s a win-win,” Witherington said. “They’re wonderful young men and they’re excited about golf.”