“I’ve spent the last 20 years here at Shawnee Mission East as a coach, and it has been such an honor and a pleasure.”
These were head golf coach Ermanno Ritschl’s departing words to his players as he announced his retirement at one of the final boys’ team dinners in March. He has been responsible for both the boys’ and girls’ successful seasons for the past two decades.
The team will undoubtedly be losing a great asset when it comes to instructing some of the best golfers in the state, as well as organizing dozens of tournaments. The program will, however, be keeping assistant coach Ryan Ottemeier and receiving a new, unnamed head coach.
Ritschl has taken 29 teams to the State Championship over his career, with seven of those teams coming home with state titles. He also won regionals 13 of the last 20 years with the boys, and 11 of the last 19 with the girls.
In addition to his team’s receiving state recognitions, Ritschl has helped senior Andy Spencer and Simon Thompson, class of 2001, become individual state champions.
“He is such a great guy to have around, and he knows so much about the game,” Spencer said. “He always has a great attitude and he brought this program so far along. The East program is going to miss him next year.”
Even off the course, Ritschl made his mark by helping his players keep their cool. Jessica Young, class of 2014, is a current sophomore at Middlebury College, and still remembers the life lessons Ritschl taught her throughout her four years.
“I think the one thing I took away from golf above everything was how to keep my composure,” Young said. “Coach Ritschl really helped me keep my cool and that has helped me a ton off the course.”
Ritschl’s job may make it seem like he’s been playing golf his whole life, but that was not the case. Ritschl was born in Roma, Italy where he played soccer growing up. However, when he and his family came to America in 1959, at 12-years-old, Ritschl was able to expand his love for soccer as well as his education in New York.
“I stayed in New York until I was 22, and then I moved to Vermont to get my masters,” Ritschl said. “I had an offer to come to KU and get my doctorate, so I came to Kansas and stayed here ever since.”
Ritschl worked towards his doctorate in Lawrence, but he lived in Kansas City throughout the process and eventually began teaching there.
“I taught at Shawnee Mission Northwest for a while, but a soccer job opened up at East and I applied for it and got it,” Ritschl said. “So I did that for seven years and loved it.”
Ritschl was a very successful soccer coach with a winning record. He even coached the current head soccer coach, Jamie Kelly, when he was in high school. Although he had loved soccer since he was little, his growing appreciation for golf encouraged him to switch.
He had never been a big golfer as a kid. He spent a few summers playing with older gentlemen who taught him a lot about the game and he played with his friends on occasion. That was enough to get him hooked.
“I loved coaching soccer, but I had been golfing a lot and wanted to mix things up,” Ritschl said. “The golf coach retired after 29 years and I loved golf and applied for that job and got it so I transitioned away from soccer and more towards golf.”
Ritschl started coaching the girls team the following fall, 1996, and has been in charge of both the boy’s and girl’s team ever since. Ritschel believes these past 20 years have allowed him to coach amazing athletes, impacting each and everyone he’s coached.
“He is the best at what he does and has been amazing through my four years at East,” Spencer said. “I am confident that whoever takes his place will do an amazing job, but Coach Ritschl has certainly left his mark at this school.”