Ronnie Key, who coached Lamar High School to multiple state championships in golf, will now take on the challenge of leading one of the nation’s premiere links programs at Meridian Community College. Dr. Scott Elliott, MCC president, announced today that Key will replace Clinton Hales as MCC’s new coach. Hales has resigned his position to fully focus on his apparel business in Meridian.
“I feel very fortunate to have a coach of Ronnie’s experience and character to lead our golf program,” Elliott said. “We’ve had a great tradition in golf at MCC, beginning in the 1970s when Jim Redgate led the program to three consecutive state championships. Since then we’ve been blessed with a string of highly successful and dedicated coaches – Lou Weddington Hart, Sean Covich (now MSU assistant coach) and Clinton Hales. All of them did a superlative job for MCC, and I fully expect Ronnie to continue that tradition of excellence.”
Elliott said he was disappointed to lose Hales, who coached MCC to a 4th place finish in the 2012 NJCAA national tournament and a season-long No. 1 ranking in the Division I junior college polls.
“Clinton is a top-quality person and a top-quality coach,” Elliott said. “I appreciate the fine job he did for MCC, but I also understand that it is very difficult to run a business in the private sector while trying to coach a college team. Both are full-time jobs and then some.”
Now, MCC will turn to Key, the holder of bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi State and the father of Easton Key, who just finished a stellar two-year career on the links for the Eagles.
Key has served as head golf coach at Lamar for two years and associate golf coach for another four year. During that time, Lamar posted five consecutive state championships. Key has also served on the Mississippi Junior Golf Association Board of Directors.
Additionally, Key worked as head baseball coach at Northeast Mississippi Community College from 1984 to 1991, a stint that saw him record winning seasons every year after his initial campaign. He has been on the Lamar staff for the past 20 years and coached the baseball team for 14 years before taking up his golf coaching career. He was also a standout college athlete himself at Corinth High School then NE Mississippi, where he made the All-State junior college teams in both football and baseball.
“I have coached extensively on both the junior college and high school levels,” Key said, “but I really began to focus on golf when that became my son, Easton’s, big interest. Having the opportunity to lead a program with a history of success like MCC’s is a dream come true for me. I plan on being with MCC for the long haul and doing all that I can to run an outstanding program, meaning recruiting players who win in the classroom and win on the golf course – with our priorities being exactly in that order.”
Elliott said it was important to hire a coach with local ties because of MCC’s reliance on area country clubs and golf courses to support the program.
“Ronnie is well acquainted with area professionals like Jimmy Gamblin at Northwood Country Club and Rob McGraw at Briarwood, not to mention our supporters at NAS-Meridian and Lakeview,” Elliott said. “If we didn’t have the support of those agencies, we wouldn’t have a golf program at MCC – period, let alone one of the nation’s top junior college teams. We will be counting on Ronnie to maintain a positive rapport with our partners in the golf community to whom MCC can’t say thank you enough.”
Beyond coaching, Key is actively involved in his church (15th Avenue Baptist) as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. He is married to Leigh Ann Key, and they have two sons, Easton and Casey.