NORMAN, Okla. - The GCAA will induct four coaches - Dr. Garland Allen of Gardner-Webb, Paul Chavez of Odessa College, West Florida’s Steve Fell, and Conrad Ray of Stanford - along with Golfstat founder Mark Laesch in its 2017 Hall of Fame Class. Allen and Laesch will be honored posthumously The group will be officially inducted at the GCAA Hall of Fame Reception and Awards Banquet Monday, Dec. 11 in Las Vegas.
Allen began his tenure at Gardner-Webb in 1961 when the institution was still a junior college. During his first year, he served as an academic counselor. He taught history in 1961 and 1962 and served as the acting chairman of the religion department from 1962-64. He began his 27-year golf coaching career in 1962, a post he maintained until his retirement from the university in 1989. He directed the golf program to nine appearances in the NAIA National Tournament. The crowning moment came during when Gardner-Webb captured back-to-back NAIA National Championships in 1976 and ‘77. Allen was honored as NAIA Coach of the Year in 1976 and 1977, and was inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame on Nov. 6, 1993. Also a professor emeritus of religion and history, Allen retired from Gardner-Webb in 1989. Soon after his retirement, the Garland H. Allen Golf Scholarship was established by the Gardner-Webb Bulldog Club in his honor.
Chavez is in his 21st year at the helm of the Odessa College golf program. The Wranglers won back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005, and again in 2017. He was named 2017 NJCAA National Coach of the Year, his fifth time to win the honor. Under Chavez, Odessa has won 145 team championships, including nine NJCAA Region V Championships, 10 NJCAA Texas State Championships, and 10 WJCAC Conference Championships. During his tenure the Wranglers have finished in the top five nationally 13 times and have produced 29 NJCAA All-Americans, 21 PING All-Americans, 50 NJCAA All-Region, 40 NJCAA All-State, and 66 WJCAC All-Conference performers. In all 73 student-athletes have transferred to four-year institutions.
Chavez is also involved away from the course. He recently served on the NJCAA Golf Poll (Div. 1) committee and is a Past President of the NJCAA Coaches Association and was instrumental in the implementation of the Golfstat scoring system for NJCAA Golf. He also serves on the Golf Advisory Board for Ratliff Ranch Golf Links, Texas Junior Golf Tour Advisory Board member, current President of Permian High School Boys Golf Booster Club, Upward Basketball Coach, and has been the guest speaker at several engagements along with being involved with many church and community activities.
Fell took over as head coach of the West Florida men‘s golf team in 1994 as it began its transition from the NAIA to NCAA Division II and the Gulf South Conference. Prior to the 2011-12 season, Fell was also named director of golf at UWF, overseeing both the men’s and women’s programs. The Argonauts won NCAA Division II national championships in 2001 and 2008 and have been a national and regional power every year under Fell’s watch. In 2016-17, the Argonauts won a school-record eight tournaments, including their fourth NCAA Regional, before advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA Championship. UWF also has claimed 15 GSC titles, the most among active league schools. Fell, a 14-time GSC Coach of the Year and two-time Dave Williams National Coach of the Year Award presented by Golf Pride, has tallied 73 career tournament wins, averaging three wins per season. In the summer of 2010, Fell was also named the GSC Coach of the Decade. He has coached 40 PING All-Americans at UWF, and 72 have earned All-GSC honors.
Laesch founded Golfstat in 1984. He began by selling his service to local college Illinois State before his statistical program changed college golf. Golfstat’s statistical database aggregated results from every tournament at every level of college golf. The NCAA Golf Committees for the past 28 years have used Golfstat’s data to select teams for postseason competition and worked with Laesch to develop a team and individual ranking. Golfstat revolutionized how teams and college golf fans followed the sport when it began its live scoring service. An ardent supporter of the GCAA, Laesch provided Golfstat’s services to GCAA award and Arnold Palmer Cup committees for selection purposes and helped the Association develop the Arnold Palmer Cup Individual Ranking. The GCAA and WGCA present the Mark Laesch Award, presented to the team that showed the greatest improvement from the previous season in adjusted stroke average, in his honor.
Ray, a former Cardinal standout student-athlete, is Stanford’s Knowles Family Director of Men’s Golf. The 2017-18 season marks his 13th on The Farm. During his tenure as head coach, Ray has led the Cardinal to 11 appearances in the NCAA Championships, including the school’s eighth national title in 2007. Stanford has won three Pac-12 Championships and four NCAA regional crowns under his direction. Ray was the 2007 Dave Williams National Coach of the Year presented by Golf Pride recipient and a two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year. Stanford student-athletes have been well decorated under Ray’s watch, as he has helped produce two Jack Nicklaus National Player of the Year Award presented by Barbasol recipients, two Ben Hogan Award presented by Konica Minolta winners and a Byron Nelson Award presented by Srixon/Cleveland Golf honoree. Cardinal golfers have earned 27 PING All-America, 21 Srixon/Cleveland Golf All-America Scholar, four Pac-12 Players of the Year, three Pac-12 Scholar-Athletes of the Year, three Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and 18 All-Pac-12 first team selections. Additionally, Ray coached the 2008 United States Arnold Palmer Cup team and five Stanford golfers have represented their country in the event during his tenure.
Ray has also been an active member of the GCAA. Currently the Association’s Past President, he has been a member of the National Advisory Board since 2006. He has additionally served on the Arnold Palmer Cup player and coach selection committees, as well as selection committees for he David Toms and Labron Harris Awards. Ray has also served on the GCAA Nomination Committee and USGA College Relations Committee. A 2011 inductee into the Northern California Golf Hall of Fame, Ray hosts Sirius/XM radio program GolfU.