Rick Collins, St. Paul’s School for Boys

by Nelson Coffin

Rick Collins has seen it all in his 43 years at St. Paul’s School for Boys.

His success did not wane, either, in his final decade before handing over the reins to Eric Nordstrom and then Paul Bernstrorf.

Now known as St. Paul’s Varsity Golf Coach Emeritus, Collins guided the Crusaders to a runner-up slot in 2015 before capturing the 2016, 2017 and 2018 MIAA A Conference championships for a program that is second to none in the Baltimore Metro Area.

As coach emeritus, Collins said that he has all the benefits of a grandparent “and then can hand the kids over to the head coach.”

Even when he was the head coach, VSN’s Private Schools Golf Coach of the Decade said that his style has never been very hands-on.

“Most of our guys have their own coaches,” Collins said. “We just try got help them out with course strategy and instill in them that team comes before individual.”

One of Collins’ best players, VSN’s No. 1 Boys Golfer of the Decade Lou Baker, said that Collins knows how to mentally prepare his players for the rigorous A Conference competition.

“That’s hard to do when you have the kind of personalities like we had at St. Paul’s,” Baker said. “He taught us how to behave on the course and how to be a gentleman off the course. He’s the type of man you want to have in your corner because he will do anything to help you out. I am so thankful to have had him as a coach and a mentor and I know that I will continue to look up to him as I transition from college (at the University of Richmond) to the real world.”

Collins, a past president of the Maryland State Golf Association, said that implementing course strategy and a solid mental approach to the game have gone a long way toward helping the Crusaders during his tenure.

“We tell the kids that if they have one bad hole that it’s not the end of the world,” Collins said, noting that scores can be salvaged on later holes with the help of their teammates.

He added that the school’s “phenomenal” indoor facility gives St. Paul’s golfers a great way to hone their skills in the bad weather that seems to invariably plague the spring season.

Having that indoor facility probably gave the 2016 team a boost but was hardly the only reason that it went wire-to-wire while claiming the Crusaders’ first title of the decade after finishing second to Archbishop Spalding the previous season.

Although 2016 stands out as one of Collins’ best and most accomplished groups, another highlight came when he also guided St. Paul’s to the 2018 crown after losing their first match of the season to Gilman.

“We got a little ahead of ourselves that year,” he said. “And Gilman had a lot of really good golfers.”

If allowing players to figure out things by themselves is the mark of a good coach then Collings gets high grades for permitting his top player that year — Baker — to get the team motivated.

“Lou did a great job,” Collins said. “The conversation he had with his teammates — his leadership — was a key.”

The Crusaders ended up routing the Greyhounds, 16-5, in the A Conference finals that year.

“Anytime we can beat Gilman in anything it’s a lot of fun,” Collins said.

Collins said that the St. Paul’s program is built from within and that some players appear on his radar as early as the fifth grade, considering his knowledge of upcoming players as a member of the Baltimore Country Club.

“We’ve been very fortunate over the years,” Collins said. “We’ve had a lot of great kids at St. Paul’s.”