Carthage’s Lowell Catron will be inducted into the Joplin Golf Hall of Fame April 17 during the 2021 Joplin Golf Hall of Fame Tournament.
Catron makes the 80th inductee since the foundation began in 1981. Catron has dedicated nearly 30 years to the next generation of golfers, and spent his entire life loving the game. He considers this moment as a special honor, but acknowledges it all points back to his father, Michael, and his grandfather, Wayne.
“My dad and grandpa introduced me to golf and I think of the kids who don’t have that opportunity,” he said. “It’s about letting them experience what I did. To me, it’s the greatest game. Every day you think ‘what can I do to get better?’ and it’s continuous work. That’s why I love it. Every day is totally different.”
Mark Peterson, Carthage Parks and Recreation director and member of the JGHF Foundation, said the selection process for this honor considers an individual’s playing abilities or contributions to growing the game … Catron is unique because he qualifies in both.
“He has well-documented accomplishments in his golf career, but nobody has impacted young people like he has through his teaching and coaching and his involvement in the area’s youth golf programs,” Peterson said. “He is the glue that holds this area’s golf community together through coordinating players, volunteers and coaches. When I came to be the golf pro for Carthage in 1996, Lowell and I got to work together and develop youth programming. We’ve been so fortunate to have him here.
“Every golf coach looks up to Coach Catron,” Peterson continued. “He has a way of making everybody feel welcome, and he brings a respect to a learning environment. But it’s more than golf – he instills life skills and I’ve never seen anybody do that like he has. Between school and golf, he uses the platforms he’s given to help everyone he touches. Junior golf has all the components to foster so many good things like self-discipline, confidence and good social skills. Coach Catron deserves this, and he’ll be the last one to admit it.”
After graduating from Carthage High School in 1984, Catron accepted a golf scholarship to Missouri Southern State College (today MSSU). He played all four years while earning his bachelor’s of science degree in physical education. Two years later, he obtained another degree in elementary education.
Catron taught elementary P.E. for 24 years – first at Hawthorne and then moving to Steadley when it was constructed in 1997. During his years in education, he also coached wrestling and volleyball, and then took over the head coach position for CHS golf in 1997. He has spent years helping local junior golf programs, which led to a successful first-ever CHS Lady Tiger golf program.
“For the last ten years we’ve had a high school girls golf team, and most of them started as third graders in our junior golf program,” Catron said. “They all had experience, went to districts and conference three years in a row – not every new program gets to experience that kind of success.”
Once again with a nod to his dad, Catron said he was within two shots of reaching a goal in 2006 – to claim a state championship like Michael’s team in 1987. Every year, Carthage student-athletes are bestowed awards named after members of that winning team.
“I tried to build Carthage golf with the history and tradition that I’ve seen, and it’s always been a great sport to me in Carthage,” Catron said. “I tried to instill in the kids the message to have fun with what you’re doing, work your hardest, and then move on. I always tried to teach being in the present. Especially in the last ten years, I told them all to walk with a purpose. Holding your head up helps you breathe and helps you think. But one of my former students shared later how that mentality helped her – walking with a purpose – helped her with every aspect of her life. Yeah you want to win, but to me golf is more about what you can carry on for the rest of your life.”
A Catron legacy
“’Let’s play a few,’” was the best phrase I could hear as a kid,” Catron said. “My grandpa, Wayne, and my dad, Michael, loved golf. For years, my grandpa was the only golfer on the park board and he was instrumental in getting the course’s new 9 holes in 1984. It was designed by Don Sechrest – who also designed Pinnacle [Country Club in Rogers, Ark]. I remember coming out and playing it for the first time and how much fun it was.”
Hole #6 is a par 3 – Just get over Catron Lake and you’re on the green … Indeed, the Carthage Golf Course holds a special place in the hearts of the Catron family.
“It’s a place of memories and for me a lot of times it was like a sanctuary,” Catron said. “I was about 13 years old and I punched a shot with my 4 iron out of the woods and it went in the hole. It was the first time I ever beat my dad on a hole and I think he was more excited than I was … And I’ll never forget coming out here after grandpa died. It’s just a peaceful place.”
Catron was with his team at the driving range in 2001 for another unforgettable moment.
“My mom pulled up to the range with dad in the car, and he told me ‘I just played my last round,’” Catron said. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease was affecting him to the point where he couldn’t play anymore, and that moment was just hard.”
Michael Catron passed away the following year in 2002.
If you want to call it that, retirement for Catron looks like a lawn service business. But when he’s not caring for his local clients, he’s usually playing golf. Every year, Catron enjoys caddying at the LPGA tournament in Rogers, Ark – which he says is ten times more stressful than actually playing.
Lowell and his wife, Valerie have been married for 25 years. They have two daughters, Abbey Rehrer (husband Seth) and Ashton, who is engaged to Phoenix Constantino. Lowell serves First Christian Church as an elder.