A fundraiser golf tournament at Stagg Hill Golf Club has been a staple of the Manhattan High football program for 10 years. But this year’s event, held Friday, was special. It’s now called the Lew Lane Memorial Golf Tournament, honoring the late Indians coach who enriched and enhanced the tradition of football at Manhattan High.
Current and former players and coaches gathered to play a round of golf Friday morning. It was the first tournament since Lane died in February. Fifty golfers competed Friday, raising $3,000 for the football program.
Despite the absence of their legendary coach, who led MHS from 1976 to 1997, Lane wasn’t far away from their thoughts.
Mike Ringgenberg played linebacker for Lane from 1985 to 1988 before going on to play at the University of Missouri. He shared a fond memory from his junior year playing for the Indians, though it wasn’t enjoyable at the time.
“We were playing Great Bend, and Coach told us that their team was going to come in here and get us to compete,” Ringgenberg said. “We got out there, I think we were probably up 28-0 at halftime, and we let off the pressure a little bit. I used the word ‘clowning,’ but the intensity wasn’t there and the details they had been coaching didn’t exist.
“On offense we were in the huddle and he just lit us up. He was just trying to make the point that, ‘It doesn’t matter how things are going on the field. Your effort and the things we taught you (need to be there) whether you are blowing somebody out, or it’s a one-point game down to the last stand.’ That still sticks with me today. You don’t want to disrespect your opponent by blowing them out. On the other side of it, things can be going great, but you still want to respect your opponent.”
While Lane won 15 league titles, a state championship and 77% of his games, his former players and coaches, like Ringgenberg, praised him for the people they became because of who he was.
“I think his legacy is in the people he impacted and the fact that they are going out and living in the world,” said Greg Hoyt, a former MHS player and the school’s principal from 2013 to 2019. “It has that ripple effect, so it’s thousands and thousands of lives that he’s touched. He was full of emotion. Most of it was fire and brimstone, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a heart.
“My junior year we were in a really tight game down at Junction City. It came down to the end, and we had a goal-line stand. We all circled up in the locker room afterward around the trophy, and he was trying to get his words out of how proud he was of us, but he was overcome with emotion so much that he couldn’t get the words out. It was probably the only time I’d ever seen him speechless in his life. To see him like that was special.”
Above all, his players recall Lane put the team first.
He showed trust in every member of his entire coaching staff. He let them run their players and do their jobs to the best of their abilities, giving them a level of autonomy unheard of at the time in Kansas’ high schools. But what came with that was responsibility.
Everyone was accountable, but Lane was the ultimate motivator.
“The thing I remember about Lew is that his pregame thoughts, the kids were ready to run right through a wall when he was done,” said Greg Marn, a friend and colleague of Lane at MHS. “He was a great motivator. I think all coaches have to be, they have to be able to push the kids’ buttons and get them ready. But Lew was a master at getting the whole team ready for a ball game.”
A notable aspect of the charity golf tournament, Hoyt said, is the generations of people who participate. While there were current high school players there, he still saw some of the 40-year-old men as kids, too. They played under him when he was coaching, and his own coaches were there as well.
Manhattan High football has been fortunate to have former coaches and players who have come through the program, head coach Joe Schartz said.
And it’s because of people like Lane.
“There’s been a continuity within the coaching staff from 1969 on,” Schartz said. “I think that’s what I’ve learned from Coach Lane and Coach (Butch) Albright: that the continuity within the coaching staff is very important to the tradition within the football program and what we stand for.
“To me, it’s about the rich tradition. I think his saying of, ‘Remember who you are and remember where you come from’ just really encompasses what our football program is about. Coach Lane was a fantastic man. He’s touched so many lives and for this golf tournament to continue to bring people back together just shows how special Coach Lane was.”