Lynn’s passion for golf and coaching find perfect fit at Oklahoma Christian
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of stories telling the stories of the 2014 inductees into the Oklahoma Christian Athletic Hall of Fame.
By Murray Evans
OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 21, 2014) – After finishing his track and field career at Oklahoma Christian, David Lynn began working as an assistant for longtime OC track coach Randy Heath, sometimes helping run practices when Heath wasn’t there.
While doing so, often in Lynn’s hand, was a golf club – symbolic of the sport that had won his heart. It wasn’t unusual for him to work on his chipping during track practice, something that Heath had to chide him about more than once.
Eventually, given the opportunity to coach OC’s men’s golf team, Lynn seized the chance and developed the program into one of the nation’s best at the small-college level. The two-time national coach of the year will be one of six people inducted into the OC Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday.
“Dave always chose what he wanted to do over lifestyle and money,” said his father – and OC women’s golf coach – Greg Lynn. “If you look at what he’s done, he’s always loved helping others and working with kids. Once he got to college, he’s been focused on that aspect of life, whether he was participating or helping others. “
Lynn grew up playing numerous sports in Mukilteo, Wash., including golf, although his father said the game wasn’t David’s passion as a teen. He was a good high school sprinter and his parents wanted to see if he could continue running at a Christian college.
“I remember it like yesterday, coming home from high school and my mom telling me she had called (OC track) coach Randy Heath and told him some of the times I had ran and that he was going to be putting a questionnaire in the mail to me and that I should fill it out,” David Lynn said.
“My mom is the reason I came to Oklahoma Christian, because she did the legwork, she called coach Heath. I am forever in debt. That changed my life forever. That changed their lives forever, because they moved here. They retired here. They had lived in Washington their whole lives … I don’t think my mom could have ever dreamed that making one phone call to coach Heath would completely ripple the water of the entire family forever. How could you think of that as anything other than God being in your life that way?”
He arrived at OC in 1991 and competed alongside some of the greatest track and field athletes in the university’s history – distance runner Wayne Strohman, sprinters Damon Sims and Kenny Burns and high jumper Eric Wiens among them. Lynn specialized in the 400 meters and was a key contributor to the Eagles’ relay teams.
While Lynn didn’t earn NAIA All-America honors, he was named as an NAIA Scholar-Athlete as a senior, which he said was one of his goals.
He also showcased his athleticism in other ways – once breaking a basketball goal in the Eagles’ Nest with a forceful dunk. (Greg Lynn said he remembers paying $500 to the university to replace the goal.) Wiens, David Lynn’s roommate at the time, recalled chipping and putting contests in their dorm room as Lynn worked on his golf game.
Lynn began as an OC assistant track coach in the fall of 1995 – working primarily with sprinters and hurdlers – and graduated that December.
As he began working as an OC admissions counselor, then later as OC’s intramurals director (a job he held until 2006), Lynn continued to assist Heath with the OC track teams through the spring of 1998. Simultaneously, he also became a quality golfer, once reaching the semifinals of the Oklahoma Golf Association state match-play championship.
In the fall of 1996, OC revived its dormant men’s golf program. Kevin Jacobs, then OC’s president, asked Lynn in 1998 if he’d be interested in coaching that team. Lynn jumped at the opportunity and recruited for the program for a year, then became the head coach before the 1999-2000 academic year.
Lynn built on the foundation laid by the previous coach, Bob Lashley, who had guided the Eagles to two top-15 national finishes in his three seasons. OC finished third in the NAIA Championship in 2000, starting a still-ongoing streak of 15 straight top-four national finishes for the program.
Deftly mixing international and American recruits, Lynn turned the OC program into a juggernaut, traveling across the country and winning multiple team and individual titles each season. At the NAIA tournament, OC finished second in 2001, 2005 and 2008.
Lynn left coaching and entered private business during the summer of 2008, and the Eagles went on to win the program’s first national title in the spring of 2009. He remembers the players calling him immediately after winning the title so that he could share in their joy.
It didn’t take Lynn long to realize that his heart was in coaching. By early 2010, he was applying for open coaching jobs, both inside and outside Oklahoma. Then Kelsey Cline – who had replaced Lynn –left OC that summer to work with St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. That opened the door for Lynn to come home to OC and he hasn’t looked back.
The Eagles rewarded him with another NAIA title in 2011. OC joined the National Christian College Athletic Association before the 2012-13 academic year – as the university began the transition toward NCAA Division II status – and the Eagles gave Lynn another national title, posting a whopping 52-shot win at the NCCAA Championship in October 2012.
When OC added women’s golf before the 2011-12 academic year, he added the title “director of golf” and he oversees the women’s program (coached by his father) in addition to his duties coaching the men’s team. He also is OC’s assistant athletic director for internal operations.
“The first year back, my perspective was completely different,” he said. “I left with the perspective that winning was the only thing that mattered. I came back with a perspective that I couldn’t care less if I win, and what happens right off the bat? We win. That was just God’s way of saying that I was focusing on the wrong things.
“The two years I spent not coaching were the absolute best thing. My career would not be the same. I might still have been successful, but the way I feel about things and the way I’ve gone about things has forever been changed.”
Lynn had coached 19 golfers who have earned NAIA, NCCAA or NCAA Division II All-America status at least once. Numerous OC players – including Juan Lizzaralde, Bruno Buccolo, Rhein Gibson, Oscar Stark and Vilhelm Bogstrand – have turned professional and enjoyed at least some success. Buccolo was inducted into the OC Athletic Hall of Fame last year and Gibson will join Lynn in this year’s induction class.
“He’s a good guy to look up to, a good coach to play for,” Gibson said. “He loves golf just as much as I do. He’s got golf on his brain 24 hours a day. He’s always looking for ways to help his players and will go the extra yard, raising money to play one more event or helping a guy with his putting when its 20 degrees outside.”
Lynn’s father and father-in-law (OC men’s basketball coach Dan Hays) work in the same building as he does and he appreciates the opportunity that provides.
“It’s hard to hear my story and not see that God’s hands are in there,” Lynn said. “Very rarely do you get an opportunity to do the job you’ve done before and at OC, in the coaching ranks, jobs just don’t open. I may be the only person who has quit here completely and then come back and done the same job. It’s difficult to get a coaching job anywhere, period, but look at the tenure of our staff and it’s really hard. I am just so grateful for the opportunity.”