B efore they hit the links for practice after school, the Coast Union High School varsity golf team has to hit the road. It is exactly 23.3 miles from the high school to the Morro Bay Golf Course — the only available course on the North Coast—but what teenage golfer cares about a 47-mile jaunt if you get to hit a little white ball in a gloriously green and relaxed setting away from campus?
On a gloomy-sky Monday this reporter made the trek south to witness Bronco golf practice and was surprised to see the 10 players alternating between putts and push-ups.
Varsity co-coach Shannon Jackson had the players taking turns putting across the wide practice green. The challenge was to leave the putt on the far edge of the green, a tricky task given that the green slopes toward the far side. When a player’s putt rolls off the green and down the other side, all 10 players drop and give Jackson five push-ups.
Certainly the Broncos love this game, but they need work on their short games. “They all want to be big studley boys and smack the tar out of the ball as far as they can hit it,” Jackson explained.
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“The short game is not as exciting or as glamorous.” But when they get to the green in two long drives, because they haven’t concentrated on the short game, “… they five-putt,” Jackson adds.
Coach Bill Clough frequently reminds his players, “A 200-yard drive counts the same as a 2-foot putt.” Hence, Clough and Jackson hammer home the fundamentals of the short game.
One factor preventing young golfers from taking their time and zeroing in on the short game is that, “It really doesn’t bother them that much to three and four-putt on the green. They are focused on the driver,” Clough explains.
Ask senior Matt Warren what part of his game needs attention and he quickly admits it’s putting and chipping. The look on his face, though, indicates a willingness to adjust, because he loves golf. “It’s relaxing, no stress,” he says.
“Once you step on the golf course, all your problems are left at home. You don’t have to be great to enjoy the game.” Moreover, Warren explains, “You’re playing for yourself against yourself.”
Clough said he really didn’t get “serious” about golf until 15 years ago when Bronco varsity golf was introduced. He is the only golf coach they’ve ever had. “I love the game, I like coaching and, athletically, it’s a nice experience for students to get out here and play.”
He likes the fact that there is rarely controversy over who gets to play — “the best players play” —because those with the lowest scores play. It’s doing the math, not waiting for the coach to select someone.
“It’s one of the few things that kids do where they interact with adults,” Clough goes on. “It isn’t the adversarial teenager versus adult thing. A high school kid can be paired with an adult for a round of golf,” and that is a rare opportunity for youths and adults to interact on a fairly equal footing.
Jackson, the Coast Union librarian, started playing golf 20 years ago. She likes the “Zen aspect of it, the serenity and beauty of being on the course. I really love it because I can continue to play it with my kids when I’m old.”
— John FitzRandolph, special to The Cambrian