When Kevin Cullen stepped down at St. Dominic Academy as a teacher, golf and tennis coach to take the principal’s position at St. Michael Catholic School in Augusta, the opportunity arose for Lacombe to go back to St. Dom’s to coach the sport that has been in his life since he was a kid.
Lacombe has spent the past 15 years teaching the game, and it was his students who asked if he was interested in trying his hand at coaching.
“The coaching aspect of it really happened when a few students that I was teaching were high school students and still are high school students,” Lacombe said. “I found out that St. Dom’s were in need of a golf coach, and I graduated from St. Dom’s (in 1987). I am an alumni and my wife is. I have two kids who graduated from St. Dom’s. I have a pretty long history with St. Dom’s. I felt it was a pretty natural fit and something I really wanted to do.”
Lacombe grew up near Apple Valley in Lewiston, where his father introduced him to the game at the age of six. He has his teaching certification from the United States Golf Teacher’s Federation as a golf instructor. After getting his certification, he started at the College Street Driving Range at the beginning of the millennium before moving to Turner Highlands, where he has been the golf pro for the past ten years.
He doesn’t have a competitive playing background — St. Dom’s didn’t have a golf team when he was in school and, he said, he’s to busy teaching the game to others to compete in tournaments.
His predecessor, Cullen, helped build a golf dynasty. The Saints captured the Class C state championship in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, and Lacombe expects the high-caliber golf to continue under his watch.
“The success has been there, I think in the last years, in five of the last eight they won state championships,” Lacombe said. “I think that more and more kids who play golf are thinking of coming to St. Dom’s for the golf program because of the success.”
Right now he has 18 players in the program and expects to have half them on the varsity team and the other half on the junior varsity squad. In their first exhibition match they defeated Poland, Lewiston and Edward Little.
He spoke to Cullen after he took the job to get a general idea what to expect of coaching a high school golf team. He was also up front with the players that he was new to the coaching aspect and was willing to listen to what works and what doesn’t. At the end of the day, Lacombe just wants the kids to go out there and have fun.
Justin Keaney, a junior, said the transition has gone smoothly in the first two weeks of practice.
“He has been pretty good so far,” Keaney said. “It’s been a little different with having Mr. Cullen here for a long time. He’s doing a good job and I think the kids are all adjusting to him well.”
Keaney doesn’t believe the strategies between the two coaches are any different. Cullen was a PGA teaching professional working at courses in California, New Hampshire and owned Maple Lane Golf Course in Livermore from 2002-07.
With Lacombe’s background as a teacher, he’s not looking to teach the kids the perfect golf swing, but make improvements on the swing that the players have in place.
“I concentrate on more on tweaking, if you will, on their swings and what I can do to improve on their natural swings,” Lacombe said. “I don’t really try to teach to one particular format and technicality. I try to take what they have best in their own game and improve it.”
Keaney also added Lacombe has taught everybody to settle down and not rush anything in a game that requires patience, a trait he’ll need himself as a coach at the high school level.