My love of golf has been well documented through the life of this column. With my retirement as a classroom teacher in June 2008, I assumed that I would seize the opportunity to play a significant amount of golf throughout the calendar year. Time is no longer a factor, and there are opportunities to take part in friendly competition at Meadowbrook Country Club, six days a week. Additionally the range and other practice facilities are there for the taking. Interestingly, it just hasn’t happened that way.
Over the last four years, I have played fewer and fewer rounds of golf. It has gotten to the point that I have literally not been playing at all. I have found myself getting my golf “fix”, not through my own play, but through the exploits of my kids on the Matoaca golf team.
After being named the Warrior’s golf coach seven seasons ago, I completely handed the Matoaca cross country reigns over to Coach Shigley.
I was immediately blessed with a wonderful group of juniors that would be destined to carry our team to new heights. The triplets – Ben, Kendall, and Lauren Allen gave us instant credibility and recognition across Central Virginia. They were skilled golfers, but more importantly wonderful young people. They were joined on the team by a smallish redhead, John Phillips, who went on to an excellent career at Bridgewater College. John will serve as a graduate assistant to coach Matt Ball this fall at VCU. Derek Johnson joined that team as a transfer and later carried the Warrior banner as a member of the St. Augustine University golf team.
One of my fears as golf coach was the possibility of looking up and finding a bare cupboard. As a result I began to talk up the golf team with the middle school students. Several of my students at Matoaca Middle stepped in and became mainstays on the team. Many came out as developmental players in the eighth grade and gradually took their places in the top six.
Tyler Hancock (now playing at Christopher Newport), Michael Romig, Jason Wells, Michael Howerton (playing baseball at JMU), Will Brown (playing baseball at Georgetown), Patrick Pennell, Will Topping (Randolph Macon soccer), Patrick Johnson (following Phillips to Bridgewater), Zach Bott, Jack Field, and Tyler Broach (an invited walk-on candidate at JMU) made Matoaca one of the deepest teams in the region.
Many of our toughest matches were the weekly qualifiers to decide who would play in the matches. None of these players were great, but collectively they were VERY good. As these guys were coming through the system, their coach literally couldn’t wait for the next season to start.
Over the last two months two of my players have accomplished the unthinkable. Back in May, Matthew Padgett scored consecutive holes-in-one. Over the tens of millions of rounds of golf played in history, there is only firm confirmation that this has happened just one other time.
A month later, Matt dropped in another ace just for good measure. The coach has been in seventh heaven as he has shared this story with just about everybody he encounters. Then just last week, Tyler Broach was chosen to compete in the First Tee Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Representing First Tee Chesterfield, Tyler slid in a 20 foot birdie putt on the most famous finishing hole in the world. The putt gave Tyler and his playing partner, Mark McNulty the team title.
The high school golf season starts in just two weeks. We have graduated 10 seniors over the last two years, but all is well. These “changing of the guard” seasons are fun for most coaches.
With players like these, I have been able to satisfy my golf urges without ever having to start my backswing. Following their accomplishments and careers has brought me so much joy.
I did play in our senior club championship last weekend. Through that process, I played more holes of golf last week than in any one week period since I started coaching golf. I had a great time. Watch out, Warriors, the coach might be getting his game back together.