By Mike Philips
Never once during her stellar high school golf career at Smith-Cotton did Libby (Howard) Eckert ever boast of her eye-popping achievements for the Lady Tiger golf team.
“We (Libby and her two sisters Christie ad Katie) had the solid family foundation,” said Eckert, when reached by phone at her home in Springfield Thursday afternoon. “Our parents taught us to be humble, to never brag on ourselves.”
(Howard) Eckert was the Class 4 individual state champion in both 1992 and 1993 at Smith-Cotton and played for four consecutive state championship teams at S-C, a feat that has never been repeated in the history of the Missouri High School Activities Association golf.
Despite all of her sub-par rounds, all her medalist rounds, individual regular-season tournament titles, winning two individual state titles and playing for four state championship teams, those achievements don’t stand out as highlights of her days at Smith-Cotton.
“I would have to say it was the girls I played with,” said Eckert. “We spent a lot of time together, not only on the course, but off the course as well. We were friends and we did a lot of things together. I think that had a lot to do with our success. We learned to trust each other. You have to be able to trust each other before you can be friends and be successful as a team.
“And we had a great coach in B.J. Curry,” she added. “He was a professional at one time and he knew what it took to be successful. He was constantly helping us with our games and what it took to be successful, not only as golfers but as people.
Curry, a 1977 graduate of S-C, is still coaching the girls and boys’ golf teams at S-C, some 20 years after the Lady Tiger golf program won their state record sixth state title in 1993 when Eckert was a senior.
The Lady Tiger great attended the University of South Carolina on a golf scholarship, led the Lady Gamecocks to four consecutive NCAA Div. I golf tournaments. She attained Academic All
American honors, graduating with a degree in business and marketing.
“I met my husband Eric there at South Carolina,” said Eckert. “He played on the men’s team thee. He was a year behind me in school. When Eric graduated he turned pro. I went out and carried his bags for him.
“No, I really didn’t miss playing,” she said. “I was just ready for a change in my life. Eric played pro for a while, but he soon got burned out and quit.”
She and her husband are the parents of two children, Ella, 7 and Eli, 4.
“We’ve got them out playing a little,” said Eckert, now a full-time, stay at home Mom. “Hopefully they take to the game. We get back to Columbia (South Carolina) about once a year. We get out and play there. We want our kids to know where their parents went to school.”
Before taking on her current stay-at-home Mom role, Eckert worked for Prime Trucking in their marketing department in Springfield and for Ancap Insurance Company in Springfield.
(Howard) Eckert was among the inaugural class of the Smith-Cotton Athletic Hall of Fame Feb. 1 during Court Warming at the S-C gym.
“I was really surprised about this when Mr. (Rob) Davis called me about this,” she said “I am just thrilled to have been inducted in the inaugural class.”
She was inducted with Norris Kelley and the late Charles Van Dyne.
She was one of three great golfers from the Howard family at S-C in the 1990s. Christie, the oldest, went to Mizzou on a golf scholarship, while the younger sibling, Katie, played on the 1993 state team champion with Libby, went to Missouri State University in Springfield on a golf scholarship. All three sisters now live in Springfield, and their brother John lives in Sedalia.
Eckert is the daughter of the late Donna and Larry Howard, formerly of Sedalia. Photo by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.