Former Brighton High School golfer Ryan Kropp is still involved in his sport.
But now, it’s as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Texas-Dallas, where Kropp finished his collegiate career this spring.
He still has one year of academics to go before he graduates.
“My first reaction was, ‘Thank goodness' and extremely excited,” Kropp said. “I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with my time if I wasn’t doing this job. I would, frankly, have a lot of free time if I wasn’t able to land this position.”
It – plus a conference championship and a national championship – became the goals after he finished his playing career at UTD.
“I wanted to remain a part of the team in a new capacity,” Kropp said. “The relationships I had built, along with how much the program has grown since I first got here, was something I wanted to see through.”
Kropp didn’t think coaching former teammates would be an issue.
“I had the captain’s role for the last two years, so it was a natural leadership role and transition that I was able to make from teammate to coach,” he said. “It’s been a little weird for me. I am not playing and showing up to the golf course all the time. But it has not been too weird or harsh of a transition. The relationships I have built with both the men and women have allowed this opportunity to occur, as well as to have the opportunity at success this year.”
Kropp graduated from BHS in 2016. He qualified for the state meet twice and led the Bulldogs to a conference title. He missed the 2019-2020 season because of an injury.
Coaching was not on his radar.
“I only envisioned myself as playing competitively, either on the team or attempting to turn pro,” Kropp said. “If professional golf didn’t pan out, I planned on using my degree in engineering to find a job in the real world. This opportunity has been a true blessing, and I have loved every second of it so far.”
Kropp plans to take things he’s learned from other coaches into his new assignment.
“I have had the pleasure of having many great coaches over a vast number of sports while growing up,” Kropp said. “I am someone who has always believed in being on time, and putting in the work will reward you in the end. It’s extremely important to have a relationship with your players so they have the ability to grow and get better.”
Team goals for this year are in place. Kropp thinks the women’s team could crack the top five in the nation. The men’s team has the same potential, Kropp thinks.
“They have just as much potential as the women and, if they're playing well at the end of the year, they, too, can compete for a national title,” he said. “I hope to see our teams win multiple tournaments along the way to our conference tournament in May.”
Before taking on his new assignment, he shot a career-best 63.
“The 63 I shot Aug. 14 was something I have never done before,” Kropp said. “It took place at the Clubs of Kingwood on the Island Course. It can be a brutal course. It is really demanding, especially on the back nine that has no easy holes at all.”
His previous career-best effort was a 67, which he shot several times in tournaments and on his own. Kropp said a lot of things went well.
“I got off the tee extremely well by finding the fairway more than I usually do, which allowed me to have a chance at hitting the approach shot a little closer,” he said. “I was really putting well that day, too. In the past, I could usually rely on my ball striking to save me or get me out of trouble. But I never hit anything extremely close on the day. I got lucky, then, with the putts finding the bottom of the hole, which helped a bunch.
“The 63 is a testament to how far I have come, especially with the level of difficulty that comes with the course,” he concluded.
Kropp was a two-time academic All-American and an all-American in 2021, the first time that a school golfer achieved that status.
“I finished up last year in what was an incredible six-year run, one of which transformed my golf game and surprised a bunch of people along the way,” Kropp said. “Once I graduate, I’m not too sure what to do yet. I’m looking at what it would take to five pro golf a try, as well as what the cost is.”
He’s also looking at a job within the golf industry, perhaps to build, design and test golf clubs. He is majoring in mechanical engineering.