Ranky Lein – World Class
As the golf world flattens, the mix of players on professional tours and college teams is decidedly international and Randy Lein knows how to leverage this trend. With a father who lives in France, a brother residing in Stockholm and close friends in London and Seoul, he is regularly offshore, scouting talent. Add summer visits to meet with European golf federations and the Arizona State University men’s golf coach casts a wide net building his own perennially successful Sun Devil squads. His current crop of players includes representation from five European nations — the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Germany and Scotland — and one from Korea. As he marks his 30th year in college golf and basks in the glow of his January induction into the Golf Coaches Association of America Hall of Fame, the 58-year-old Lein (pronounced Line) has reason to stop and take a bow. But heartfelt dedication to his players and a relentless pursuit of excellence keep him working not only around the globe, but around the clock too. Besides, there are more titles to win and so little time to develop his charges to the world-class level reached by many ASU golf alumni: Mickelson, Mayfair, Purtzer, Twitty, Reavie, Perez, Casey, Carner, Park and Farr, to name a few.
While a true citizen of the world, Lein has been rooted firmly in a small corner of the earth. Born in Long Beach, Calif., he took up golf early and competed at Division II Cal State-Northridge, where he carried a plus-3 handicap and earned a degree in finance. Then, his plan was to “be a stock broker, leave work at 3:30 and play gentlemen’s amateur golf.” He never did pursue Wall Street riches, but he instead took a teaching job at an executive course at Westlake Village in Los Angeles, where he met Ron Rhoads, who held club professional positions at Riviera and Sherwood country clubs.student in student-athlete; the graduation rate for his players is nearly 90 percent. Going into this year’s NCAA Championship in May with a top-20 national ranking and any one of five players he believes is capable of winning the individual title, Lein likes the Sun Devils’ chances.
Through Rhoads, Lein eventually became an assistant coach at the University of Southern California under Stan Wood, then later head coach. He began collecting Pacific-10 Conference titles and an NCAA Championship. When ASU built its own course and first-class practice facilities, Lein was enticed to take the head coaching job in the fall of 1992. Since then he has garnered victories and awards in all categories to further enrich ASU’s golf tradition.
When asked the secrets to his extraordinary coaching run, Lein immediately cites his staff, specifically assistant coach Mickey Yokoi, who mentors mechanics and charts course strategy, and sports psychologist Debbie Crews. In the area of teaching philosophy, Lein credits a respectful, player-centered approach he learned from Rhoads, one well-suited to working with the often fragile psyches of younger players, as his model. His signature message is a combination of “positive mental attitude” and Zen-sharp focus on the shot at hand.
“Plus,” he laughs, “I’m an eternal optimist.” On their side, Lein explains, today’s players bring “very good fundamentals, excellent conditioning and diet habits, properly fitted equipment, loads of competitive experience in top-flight junior amateur events and the ability to deal with a variety of playing conditions.” He adds, “Our job is to get into their heads and make them winners and, as some have done, PGA Tour-level players.” Lein’s limited personal playing time often is compared to that of his players. “It’s no fun to watch these guys outdrive you by 50 yards,” he says. “It’s hard on my psyche.”
With the standard 54-hole team events (he’s won more than 40) running Friday through Wednesday, college golfers travel a lot. On the road, Lein keeps his teams loose but focused, combining a movie night with a pretournament skull session that shares tips and observations. At home, there is a constant series of on-course “games,” each with a specific skill-set goal. Amid all this activity, Lein has maintained the
“If the top guys shoot to their ability, we might win the team title,” he says. “In the 1993 PAC-10 we were ranked No. 10 and Arizona No. 1.They were up 13 shots with nine holes to go and we won by two. Bottom line, in golf, winning is about believing you can.”