Ricketts’ consistency a big plus for Franklin College men’s golf

The two senior school years in Zach Ricketts’ lifetime are a contrast in opportunity.

Ricketts, projected to be Whiteland’s No. 1 player in 2020 after leading the team to a regional the previous spring, had his final year of prep competition wiped out by a global pandemic.

Left pondering an assortment of could-have-beens, including wondering how the Warriors might have stacked up in county, conference and sectional tournaments, the left-hander wants to end his Franklin College career by playing a role in obtaining some major hardware.

“The biggest thing for me is to win conference,” said Ricketts, referring to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tourney scheduled for May 3-5 at Terre Haute Country Club. “We’ve been close, but just haven’t gotten it done.

“Transylvania is pretty good. Rose-Hulman is pretty good. And they’re usually the ones that beat us.”

Franklin College men’s golf last secured the HCAC team title in 2006, capping what was a run of five consecutive league championships.

Grizzlies’ coach Kyle Dell, part of the program as a player from 2007-10, believes this squad, led by No. 1 and 2 players Jacob Paine and Carter Giggy, respectively, has what it takes to get over the hump.

Sophomore Braxton Christie, who played at Indian Creek, is usually No. 3 in the Franklin College lineup, while Ricketts is No. 4 and either senior Zayne Spangler or one of his other three teammates in the fifth spot.

“I would say that three through eight, it’s super competitive,” Ricketts said.

The Grizzlies are coming off a second-place effort at the Polar Beaver Classic, where Ricketts shot an even-par 144 to place third, the best individual finish of his career. The team is at the Anderson Spring Invite this weekend and wraps up April competition at the Earlham Spring Invitational.

After his strong showing last weekend, Ricketts is averaging a career-best 78.18 shots per 18 holes this season. Earlier in his college career, he’s been at 79.85 (freshman), 79.4 (sophomore) and 79.1 (junior) — numerical proof of the level of consistency he’s displayed since arriving on campus.

For a program that has had three head coaches in the past four years, Ricketts is a much-needed rock.

“The number he plays fluctuates, but Zach is always a staple in the lineup. That just speaks to the consistency that he’s had in his career,” said Dell, who took over prior to the 2023 spring season. “Zach is not a kid who is fascinated by the position he plays.

“He’s a team player. Zach puts his head down, and does the best he can for the team. College golf is a difficult thing to juggle, but Zach’s demeanor is very even-keel. You watch him on the golf course, and you don’t know if he’s even par or 10-over.”

Five of the eight members on the Franklin College squad are seniors, each contributing in his own way.

“Zach is technically not a team captain, but he’s definitely a leader on the team,” Dell said. “Just a kid who’s always going to give his best effort. He leads by example of how things should be done.”

Student-athletes often opt to get away from home, but Ricketts, who majors in software engineering, is glad he remained in Johnson County.

“It’s been fun. Since I’m so local, I know the area,” Ricketts said. “Being able to travel more and get out of the state has been nice. And just the fun atmosphere of our team.

“With big schools, I know kids will sometimes leave or transfer. Here, you’re pretty much around the same players all four years.”