About two years ago at a conference in Kansas City celebrating all the state champions from the Kansas and Missouri side of the state line, Shawnee Mission East golf coach Ermanno Ritschl decided when he was going to retire.
Ritschl, who retired from teaching five years ago, coached his final tournament on Monday at the Class 6A championship where the Lady Lancers took second place.
Senior Teagan Noblit, who shot an 84, good for a tie for fifth, wanted to send Ritschl out with a title.
Ritschl had made up his mind at the dinner table and stuck with that decision. He said it’s difficult to say goodbye to anything, but he cherished those two years and is ready to move on to the next phase of his life.
“We were at the table and the girls asked me if I was going to come back,” Ritschl recalled of the event in 2014. “I said, ‘Yeah, I want to see you guys through.’ I think I decided about two years ago with all the (current) seniors. I told the seniors I’ll see you guys through and I’ll graduate with you.”
When he began coaching 20 years ago, he didn’t know what to think his career would amount to. He knew the program — both boys and girls — was strong; he wanted to continue that tradition at least.
“A lot of memories, a lot of friends,” Ritschl said of what he’ll take away from his 20 years. “I’ve gained more from coaching than I think the kids and parents have gained from me.”
Ritschl won nine state titles — seven with the boys and two with the girls — his last coming in the spring with the boys following a title in the fall with the girls.
He attributes those titles by the support of administration and parents, saying they’re just as part of the team as the golfers.
“He’s very knowledgeable about the game,” Noblit said. “Knowing what clubs to use and what shots to hit. He’s very good about, ‘Swing solid, you got it, be confident in your swing.’ That’s really comforting. It makes everybody feel better, I know it makes me feel a lot better.”
But after all that success, why now? The passion for coaching is still there.
“I’m 71, that’s why,” he said. “If I had more time, if I was 50 or 60 I’d be doing this for another five years. At 71 time starts to creep on you and I want to stay with the family, do things with my kids, travel and I’m still healthy. I know a lot of people at 70 who can’t walk and I don’t want to be in that position.”
He already has his first trip lined up to Phoenix next week. He’ll also travel to Grand Rapids, Mich., frequently with his wife to watch his daughter Micaelina, a ballerina, preform, and Denver, Colo., to see his son Carlo.
He also has international travel planned.
In the summer of 2018 he will head back to Naples, Italy, to visit about 30 cousins.
“My wife and I are taking an Italian class,” Ritschl said. “We’ll do things together more. She’s been retired for about a year.”
But what about golf?
“I try to play in my mind every day, but I probably make it three or four times a week,” he said.