At the end of the spring 2006 season that one-year commitment will have stretched to 39 years. And that Samples has decided is long enough. This week he informed his men's and women's golf teams that he will retire at the end of the school year.
"It was a tough decision, but I felt it was the right time," said Samples who came to Lipscomb in 1966 as Director of Testing and Counseling. "I will miss the association with the players and other coaches who have become good friends. Lipscomb has been a great place to work."
Samples won't be completely leaving the program. Dr. Steve Potts, Lipscomb's director of athletics, has offered Samples the opportunity to spend as much time as he wants around the golf program and the athletic department.
"We have been blessed to have Coach Samples as a member of our athletic staff for these 39 years," said Potts. "He worked extremely hard to build a strong NAIA program that produced two individual national champions in Will Brewer and Katherine Neely, and he has secured a solid foundation for our current NCAA Division I program
"We will be forever grateful to Ralph for the rich legacy he leaves behind. We are also pleased that we will have this coming season with him to continually express our thanks."
For someone who had no intention of coaching, Samples leaves an impressive legacy. Some of the accomplishments are:
• Teams have won more than 100 tournaments• Teams participated in 24 NAIA National Tournaments • President of NAIA National Coaches Association (1984) • Director of NAIA District 24 for 18 years • Winner of gold medal as coach of Team USA in World University Golf Championship in San Lameer, South Africa (1998) • Inducted into NAIA National Golf Coaches Hall of Fame (1988) • Inducted into Lipscomb Athletics Hall of Fame (1989) • Coached Will Brewer, winner of NAIA Nationals (1976) • Coached Katherine Neely, winner of NAIA Nationals (2001)
His teams traveled extensively, participating in tournaments in St. Andrews, Scotland, Hawaii, Bermuda and the Bahamas.
"I have had the good fortune of having many outstanding players, including several All-Americans and several Academic All-Americans," said Samples. "Every player who has been on my teams for four years has graduated."
Samples has a bachelors degree from Lipscomb, a masters from the University of Chattanooga (now UT-Chattanooga) and a doctorate from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.
He is a native of Cleveland, Tenn., where he played football for Bradley County High School. He and his wife, Mimi, have been married for 47 years.