CHARLESTON – Robert Rardin had his mind made up. He was going to golf at Franklin College in Indiana, and it was, essentially, finalized.
“I had applied and put in my deposit and the coach was counting me in on his roster,” Rardin said.
This was the plan, and Rardin, a senior at Charleston, was content with it. Until one day, a Wednesday in mid-November, when Rardin’s father brought up an innocuous idea to him. He was driving to Springfield and suggested Robert come along to briefly stop by Illinois-Springfield’s campus. The school wasn’t on his radar and he had only texted assistant golf coach Nick Tannahill a couple times a few months prior.
“I was like, alright, can’t hurt anything,” Rardin recalled.
It indeed had no negative effects. Well, maybe except for Franklin’s golf program. After a brief campus tour and meeting with head coach Frank Marsaglia, Rardin made a decision. He would golf at UIS instead.
“Until I visited, I had no real interest in going there,” Rardin said. “But I did, fell in love with the campus, liked the golf coach, loved the program. The rest is history.”
Wednesday afternoon, Rardin made it official. He signed a letter of intent to golf at UIS next fall in front of teammates, friends and family members at Charleston’s media center. He’s the fourth member of the Trojans’ back-to-back state champion golf team to sign a letter of intent, joining classmates Ben Lanman, Preston Smith and Keegan Gowin. That trio will play for Eastern Illinois. Rardin, though, never seriously considered EIU because he wanted to go to a new town and new area for college.
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“Eastern showed a lot of interested in Robert,” Charleston golf coach Randy Harpster said.
Rardin’s signing capped an accolade-filled high school career, the highlight of which was shooting a 4-under 67 on the second day of the 2017 state tournament. It helped Charleston overcome a six-stroke deficit on the final day to win the Class 2A state title, smash the school record for an 18-hole round and secure Rardin an All-State and a second all-conference selection. A year later, the Trojans repeated as state champions.
Harpster thought Rardin had a chance to play collegiate golf before his state tournament outburst. He admired Rardin’s work ethic, the time he spends studying his game and his ability to stay on the school’s honor roll as well.
“I had to kick him off the golf course a ton so he could go and do his homework” Harpster said. “He just loves the game.”
Of course, the 67 grabbed everyone’s attention. Even Rardin’s.
“That was the big turning point,” he said. “I realized I can do this and beat anybody with enough work and preparation. I could be as good as I want to be.”