Jay Lester is going home.
Maumelle’s Lester, 53, is the new golf coach at his alma mater, Hendrix College in Conway.
“I am ecstatic,” Lester said. “It’s a dream job for me. I’ve been around golf almost my entire life, and I understand; I can help people, coachingwise. I have no doubt about that.”
Lester, who grew up in Camden and played on two Camden High School teams that won state golf championships, is a 1982 graduate of Hendrix, where he played on the golf team and earned all-district honors as a senior. His degree was in economics/business with an emphasis in accounting.
He has owned Little Rock Golf, a club repair business, since 1999. He said he would continue that work in addition to his coaching duties.
Lester is a third-generation Hendrix graduate, following his maternal grandfather, Harry G. McClurkin, and his mother, Caroline Hope McClurkin Lester.
He has never coached before, but he is confident that he can.
“I’m really good in the short-game area, where most people need help, and I’m also real good at course management, which most of today’s youth don’t know about,” he said. “I’m still the old-school guy who thinks you have to work your way around the golf course instead of overpowering it.”
Jay Fox, executive director of the Arkansas State Golf Association, who played
collegiately against Lester while at the University of Central Arkansas and since then in ASGA events, agreed.
“Jay has one of the best short games of all time,” Fox said. “He’s maybe the best pure chipper you will ever see — not only does he try to make chip shots, he thinks he can make them. Most of us are just hoping to get our chip shots close enough to make putts, but not Jay. He wants to make the chip shot.”
Fox agreed with the hire of his old friend.
“Jay Lester is the perfect choice for Hendrix and its student athletes,” he said. “He played collegiate golf at Hendrix, has his degree from Hendrix, and no one cares more deeply about the game of golf and Hendrix than Jay Lester does. He will do an outstanding job, and I applaud those who chose him.”
From 1988-98, Lester was a regular on the ASGA-designated circuit and earned a spot on the Arkansas Cup team most of those years. His first designated win came in 1991 in the old Riverfest tournament at Rebsamen, when he shot what was then a course record of 67-68. He won the Ouachita Valley Invitational at Camden Country Club, the course he grew up on, in 1997 and ’98.
Despite a severely curtailed schedule since those years, he has made the most of his few tournaments, including a runner-up finish — by one stroke — in the Fourth of July Classic at War Memorial Golf Course earlier this summer. It is one of his favorite tournaments.
Hendrix competes in the Southern Athletic Association of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III, which has no athletic scholarships. When Lester played, the Warriors were in the old Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
He has hit the ground running since becoming Hendrix’s golf coach earlier this month, already doing recruiting, although his position is considered to be part time.
“I’m working it full time, but it’s officially part time,” he said. “I can only work with the kids 19 weeks a year, but I can recruit and get around. I’ve had really good response from recruits so far. I’ve heard a lot from people all over the country who are interested in playing college golf and getting a good education. We have a very good budget for both the men and women, our own athletic trainer, and strength and conditioning coach. It’s a wonderful staff to work with.”
He said he had three returning men, with a freshman coming in, and four returning women. The Warriors have three tournaments scheduled this fall before a fuller schedule in the spring.
“I have very high expectations for us,” Lester said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s a perfect fit.”