LAKEWOOD RANCH — Winning never gets old.
It’s the countless hours spent scheduling tournaments, organizing practice rounds and traveling back and forth across the state, not to mention spending four months out of the year away from your family, that starts to take its toll over time.
After spending 28 seasons coaching high school golf, exhaustion finally began to set in for Lakewood Ranch High boys golf coach Dave Frantz.
Prior to the start of the season, Frantz decided this would be his final season as a high school golf coach.
The decision to walk away from his role wasn’t one Frantz took lightly, but, it’s one with which he’s becoming more content.
Frantz coached Lakewood for the final time in the Class 3A state tournament Nov. 5 and Nov. 6, at Howey-in-the-Hills, where the Mustangs shot a combined 593 to win their third-consecutive state championship.
“It’s really nice to go out on top, and there isn’t anything really left for me to do,” Frantz says. “So, that played a part in my decision. But the major thing is that while the desire is still there, I’m tired. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it.”
Frantz began coaching at Southeast High in 1986. He spent 13 years coaching the Seminoles before moving to Lakewood in 1999.
In 14 years with the Mustangs, Frantz accumulated a 697-95 record. During that time, Frantz coached Lakewood to 10 Manatee County championships, seven district championships, five regional championships and three state championships, among numerous other tournament titles.
Over the past three years, Frantz scheduled the toughest competition he could find across the state in hopes of making his players better.
“When you’re constantly beating teams that aren’t competitive, you don’t really don’t get an idea of where you stand and the confidence of beating quality teams,” Frantz says. “Mrs. (Linda) Nesselhauf (Lakewood Ranch High principal) always has been encouraging (of that fact).”
In the week leading up to the state championship, Frantz enjoyed spending time with his players both on and off the course.
“It’s all about the players and being a part of their lives,” Frantz says. “It’s all about the relationships. I hope all of my players feel like they can pursue a relationship with me for the rest of their lives. That’s what it’s been all about.”
After the first day of competition, the Mustangs held a seven-shot lead and appeared, barring an unforeseen circumstance, to be on their way to defending their state championship.
“I ran through all sorts of feelings,” Frantz says. “You never know if there’s going to be that surprise team that jumps out and destroys what you’ve planned on celebrating all year long.”
Frantz had been hoping for a 10-shot lead at the end of the first day, but after watching all of his players birdie to get back to even par on the second day of competition, a sense of relief washed over him.
At that point, he called his wife, Melissa, and 14-year-old son, Noah, and told them they had the tournament won, and it was safe to come out to the course.
“It gave me a sense of security in knowing that they were there,” he says. “They only come when I think we are going to win. It kind of calms me down a little bit. It’s the feeling of home.
“I thought it was really cool that my wife was with me for this last one,” Frantz says. “It really put it all into perspective and to see the pride and love on her face is something I’ll never forget. Without her support, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this.”
As each of his players walked off the course, Frantz shared the good news. It was particularly emotional for Frantz seeing seniors Danny Walker and Ramsey Touchberry and junior Luke Miller, who won’t be playing high school golf next year, walk off the course for the final time in their high school careers.
“Every time a senior comes off for the final time, it is special for me,” Frantz says. “Danny and Ramsey are special just in the sense of how much time we’ve spent dreaming about how far we can go and imagining the tournaments we were going to play in. The thing I’m probably going to miss the most is those special relationships.”
With their third-straight state title secured, the players celebrated with sparkling grape juice before diving into the pool.
The players then shaved Frantz’s head — the result of a bet — and ate dinner at Outback Steakhouse.
Sitting in his classroom two days after his third state championship, Frantz is completely at ease for the first time in 27 years.
Surrounded by championship trophies, team pictures and other mementos from his storied coaching career, Frantz can finally sit back and relax.
Well, at least for a minute.
After all, there are still state championship rings and trophies to order and an end-of-the-year banquet to plan. But Frantz wouldn’t have scripted it any other way.
“I keep telling myself, ‘You can relax now,’” Frantz says. “There’s still quite a bit to do, but it is nice to be able to just sit around and grade papers.”
Over the past 14 years, Frantz has helped build a tradition of excellence at Lakewood — one he hopes his successor will continue.
Now with his head coaching days behind him, Frantz plans to spend time with his family. He still has five years of teaching left before he retires, at which point he hopes to be fully entrenched in a junior golf academy, maybe his own.
But, don’t be surprised if you run into Frantz on one of the local courses in the near future.
“I plan on playing a lot of golf,” Frantz says. “I haven’t played 18 holes of golf since September, so I’m looking forward to that.”
BY THE NUMBERS
697 — The number of wins Frantz has in 14 years at Lakewood Ranch
28 — The combined number of seasons Frantz was the head golf coach at Southeast and Lakewood Ranch
8 — The number of times Frantz’s teams made it to the state tournament
3 — The number of state championships Lakewood Ranch has won
10 — The number of Lakewood Ranch golfers who have received college scholarships
0 — The number of matches Lakewood Ranch lost in 2011
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].