Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

June 9, 2014

Ruckel chooses golf, Shawnee

VANCEBURG — Brett Ruckel describes himself as “a homebody, more or less.”

Combine that with the possible opportunity to compete on the golf course immediately, and Shawnee State stood out to the Lewis County senior.

Ruckel signed a letter of intent last week to play golf for the Portsmouth school.

Earlier in his senior year, Ruckel had been considering Pikeville for both golf and basketball. That’s about two hours further from Vanceburg than Shawnee State is, though.

So Ruckel will still become a Bear — just one that wears navy blue instead of orange.

“I just felt like I wanted to stay here,” Ruckel said. “You know how that goes.”

Additionally, it will be easier for Ruckel to get on the links in competition sooner at Shawnee State, he thinks.

He played a nine-hole round last Monday at Elks Country Club in McDermott, Ohio, for the Bears’ coaching staff before committing Wednesday and signing Thursday.

“(The Shawnee State coaching staff) told me that day that if I came there that I’d be able to start right off,” Ruckel said. “Pikeville is a much better program than Shawnee, but I wouldn’t get to play my first year. I’ve never been used to that. I’ve always jumped right into things with everything I’ve done.”

Ruckel starred in two sports at Lewis County. He leaves as the basketball Lions’ second-all-time leading scorer and was named Eastern Kentucky Conference Offensive Player of the Year after his senior season, when Lewis County went 17-14 and reached the semifinals of the 16th Region Tournament.

He was also the EKC’s individual boys golf champion last fall.

“I have watched Brett grow as an individual and a team member through the years,” Lions coach Bill Allen said. “Over the past couple of years Brett has worked very hard on his own game as well as working with the younger members of our team to help them as well. I truly believe that Shawnee State has gained a young man that will work hard and be a valued asset to their team.”

Ruckel began working with David White, a four-year Morehead State golfer and Lewis County’s girls coach, as his swing coach about three years ago.

“His swing was real natural, it just had a lot of flowing parts,” White said. “The main thing I had to do was just get him connected.

“From a golf professional’s standpoint, he’s the kind of guy you dream of teaching. He’s just got raw athletic talent and hand-eye coordination, and he never questioned what I told him, he just did it and worked hard at it, and he’s probably knocked 25 shots off his score in the last couple years.”

Ruckel said he plans to prepare for the next level in earnest this summer. White said he’ll have to focus on gaining muscle memory through repetition and refining his short game.

“I’ve been playing some, but the coach told me to come up and play with him some,” Ruckel said. “And hopefully this summer I’ll get a good jump into it and play.”

Ruckel remains undecided on his course of study, saying he plans to “figure it out whenever I get there.”

ZACK KLEMME can be reached at zklemme@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.

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