New Wright State golf coach takes over strong program

Wright State's Tyler Goecke hits a tee shot during the first round of the UD Invitational at NCR Country Club on April 12, 2021. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics
Wright State's Tyler Goecke hits a tee shot during the first round of the UD Invitational at NCR Country Club on April 12, 2021. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics

FAIRBORN — Conner Lash loved everything about being a Wright State golfer — the bonds, the coaching, the competition.

He stayed in the game after graduating in 2017, caddying for LPGA Tour player Marissa Steen for a couple of years. But it wasn’t the same.

“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “I love being around the team atmosphere, and I know how important it was to have a coach you could talk to and be pushed by — someone who made you not only a better athlete, but a better person. That’s the purpose I wanted in my life.”

He returned to Wright State as a volunteer assistant in 2020 and was the Raiders’ top target for the head-coaching job when Brian Arlinghaus left to take over at Xavier last June.

But Lash didn’t jump at the offer. He couldn’t. He’d just been named the golf coach at Centerville High School, his alma mater, putting him in a difficult spot.

“I was really looking forward to building that program up. But I talked my assistant coaches at Centerville and a lot of people, and they said, ‘This is an opportunity you really can’t pass up — to be a coach at the Division I college level,” he said.

Lash listened to those he trusted and has the Raiders flourishing in his maiden season.

They’ve played three of their five fall tourneys, winning twice and finishing second once. And they’ve had the medalist in each event: Mikkel Mathiesen at Valparaiso, Tyler Goecke at Marshall and Cole Corder at Ball State.

Corder shot an 8-under-par 62 in Muncie, Ind., to tie the 18-hole school record set by Charlie Doll in 2010.

The senior from Powell, Ohio, also became the first Raider to shoot 130 for two rounds and 200 for three.

Teammates Davis Root, Bryce Haney and Mathiesen also were among only eight players in that 13-team event to post under-par totals.

The Raiders finished a whopping 36 strokes ahead of second-place Bowling Green, which is believed to be a school record for margin of victory. And their 22-under tally also is a new standard in a single event.

Yes, Arlinghaus left his former sidekick a stacked roster.

“Just looking at the players he brought in and the success he had — actually in a pretty short span of time — he built this program up, and I’m just trying to continue his trajectory,” the 28-year-old Lash said.

The Raiders won the Horizon League tourney in 2019 and advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the first time in 15 years.

They were stunned by Oakland in the event last spring (the 2020 tourney was cancelled because of the pandemic), losing by seven shots. But their three-round total of 877 would have been in the winning score in the 10 previous HL championships.

They returned three players who made all-league with top-10 finishes: Mathiesen (T-3), Haney (T-5) and Goecke (T-10).

“This group is very internally motivated. I don’t have to do a whole lot of pushing to get them to practice or go to the weight room. They’re very mature,” Lash said.

“My coaching style, at least right now, is to stay out of their way. These guys know how to play golf and get the ball in the hole, that’s for sure.”

But while he may try to emulate Steve Stricker’s low-key approach that worked in the Ryder Cup, he’s hoping to push the Raiders to new heights.

“I don’t only want to be one of the best teams in the state. I want to make some noise at the (NCAA) Regionals,” Lash said.

The Raiders — who have a trip to Georgia State before finishing the fall season Oct. 18-19 at the Dayton Flyer Invitational — have never finished better than 13th in five previous regional trips.

“The volleyball team has made a splash on the national level. So has the baseball team. They’ve done it year in and year out. They’ve set the standard, and that’s where I want to take this program,” he said.