Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Changes.


For as long as I can remember, golf has been a part of my life. Fortunately for me, my Uncle Ed introduced me to the greatest game ever played by taking me up to Shoshone Golf Club and turning me loose. I'll never forget those afternoons scavenging for balata and surlyn treasures while mastering the fine skill of smacking them with my 7 iron. The rules were simple: Don't get in anyone's way, and don't damage the course. Little did I know that this simple pleasure would later turn into one of the single greatest activities I would experience in my life.

Later in my childhood, the golf passions increased. After convincing my parents to buy me my own set of clubs, which were Dick Cripe's Spalding Top Flite clubs, including a genuine 2 Wood, also known as a Brassie, I spent as much time as humanly possible at Shoshone Golf Club with my great pal Hank Rauenhorst. We would routinely split our front and back nines with a 1 hour snorkel harvest in the pond on holes 8/9 and would make out like bandits. Not only did the water cool us down from the hot summer sun, but we also gathered as many golf balls as our swim shorts could hold. We sold balls to the members as they passed by the pond, sometimes retrieving the ball they just smacked into the H2O while we were scouring the bottom! In addition to the money we made on instant sales, we could always sell the remaining loot, minus the gems we decided to keep (bright orange Top Flights were like gold!) to Club Pro, Sano Haldi. We'd usually give Sano the hundreds of balls left after our sales and keepers and in turn get a king's sized feast complimented with a trademark cherry cola. Let me tell you, nothing tasted better than a huge cheeseburger, fries, and cherry cola after a long day of golf and scuba diving! On a side note, one member once told us that Sano didn't want us diving in the pond, in an attempt to scare us off. But Hank and I didn't buy such rubbish. Haters gonna hate.

Later, my love for golf continued into high school, perhaps too much. I thought I had better "specialize" after getting a series of lessons from Pinehurst GC (AKA Kellogg Country Club) Pro, Dick Martin. The guy never charged me for a lesson and despite teaching me a swing that was nearly impossible for me to replicate and succeed with, he fueled my passion for golf even more. My one regret during my high school tenure, was not continuing my basketball career, as I thought devoting every second to golf would be beneficial. I doubled down on my opportunities by landing a job working in the Pro Shop for one of the finest men and role models I have ever encountered, Jerry Wombolt. I now had the best of both worlds: lessons, free golf, and a job that required me to chip and putt for hours while serving the members and patrons. I even parlayed this into more work and more hours at the course when I also served on the watering crew, soaking down the course deep into the wee hours of the morning. I logged more hours on the golf course in those years than most do in a lifetime. I can’t even attempt to count the number of rounds of golf I played with buddies Hank Rauenhorst, Eddie Fedele, Kirk Nelson and even my younger brother I never had, Travis Fulton, taking on the personae of Jack Nicklaus, Arnie Palmer, Greg Norman, and other greats.

As a member of the KHS Golf team, I was able to participate in 3 State Tournaments. The highlight was my Junior year, as we pulled off an upset by beating our IML rival Priest River and placing 4th overall. Priest River went on to win the State Championship my Senior year, coached by my now great friend and mentor, Scott Salesky. I was able to finish 6th place individually my Senior year, behind a bunch of very accomplished golfers, several of which are still playing golf at a professional level. I had some struggles as well, but never had my love and passion for the game waiver. I'll never forget watching Curtis Strange win back to back US Open Championships in 1988 & 1989, most of it from the TV at Kellogg Country Club, while "working."

I continued my love for golf throughout my college days and played as often as I could. I even caddied for a great friend of mine in local tournaments, and soaked up all the golf I could get. I then became interested in the mechanical and mental part of the game, seeing golfers of all swing types and mental makeups struggle and succeed. I knew that once I graduated, I'd love to coach golf, but I had no idea when and where that would occur.

In 1995, I landed my first teaching job at Kellogg School District and was blessed to be able to assist my now great friend, Laurie Roberts, who had recently taken the job after my coach, Ralph Lowe moved on. Those 9 years were some of the most fun and satisfying years of my coaching career. Not only did I love my assignment of helping out in every way, but I got to learn from one of the finest people I have ever known, Laurie Roberts. I also got to coach some of the best golfers I'd ever know, including, but not limited to Travis Fulton, Tyson Kovash, Ryan Bailey, Derek Williams, Tate White, Leslie Hodge, Cally Blalack, Cara Burkgart, Brad Peterson, Danny Kenyon, and so many more. These included both talented golfers, and wonderful kids. I had more fun than I can possibly explain in words. During those years, I golfed nearly every day, usually with members of the KHS teams.

After the 2003 season, my great friend and mentor, Laurie Roberts moved on to the next chapter in her life, and I landed the head coaching job at KHS. It was bittersweet, as I would miss my friend, but I would get to be the head coach of my alma mater, in the sport that was such a huge part of my life. Again I had some amazing and exceptional kids to coach. from 2004 to 2012 we accomplished many great feats. The boys have been to State 10 consecutive years and the girls have been  to State in 9 consecutive years, finishing no worse than 4th at the State 3A Tourney. In 2004 the boys made a heroic comeback and just missed 4th place at Stoneridge and then in 2005 a great group of kids led by Senior Derek Jarvey went out and braved the elements and won KHS the State 3A Championship after a dramatic playoff. I still get goosebumps when I think about that. Thank you Derek Jarvey, Shea Sevy, Kyle Finlay, Sam Redmond, Carter Wardwel. The girls have won 9 consecutive IML and Dist I-II titles and the boys have also established quite a tradition of success. Our most recent accomplishments include IML, Dist I-II championships and 2nd place finishes at the 2012 State 3A tournament. I've also been able to be a part of a long time family friend, Kaceelyn Pouttu winning 3 consecutive individual State Titles. (She'll go for her 4th this Spring) That run from 2004-2012 includes many IML champions, State placers, and all around wonderful kids. Derek Jarvey, Shea Sevy, Sue James, Jessi Gibbons... There are literally too many to name. It has been a fantastic, full tenure. I'm blessed to have been able to coach such wonderful kids.

More recently, my life has changed significantly. Although I still love and cherish the game of Golf as much as I ever have, my interests and duties have changed. I now have 2 beautiful daughters, Gracie, who was my good luck charm in 2005, and Gemma. More importantly, I have an amazing wife who has sacrificed for 18 years so I could devote my life and time to coaching golf. Additionally, my job has changed from a more predictable assignment of classroom teacher, to technology coordinator, which is turning into a year-round position (understatement). I'm passionate about my job, as well as my family, and I'd like to be able to spend more time with my young daughters. I want them to choose and experience the myriad of activities and options that are out there like gymnastics, swimming, camping, music, and yes, maybe even golf. But I want them to experience these opportunities on their terms, not mine. Furthermore, I have also been touched and heavily influenced by another mentor in the Golf realm, Stan Edwards. Stan was always there for me (and Laurie), and after years of unwavering service at Pinehurst Golf Course, Stan retired. I’ll always remember him saying, “I want to go camping on the weekends and enjoy the outdoors.” Now Stan was one of the most dedicated golfers I ever knew, so the fact that he walked away on his terms meant a great deal to me and impacted me significantly. I want to be able to make a change on my terms, not anyone elses or any other set of circumstances.

After much thought, discussion, contemplation, and prayer, I have decided to step down as Head Coach of KHS Golf, after the upcoming 2013 season, and devote myself to my job, my hobbies (I love to run, bike, camp, and speed golf!), and most importantly, my wife, daughters, and family. This decision has not been easy, but I know it is the right one. It doesn't mean I'm done coaching golf forever, but for now, I am taking a break. I cannot put into words the joy I have received in coaching the best kids in the greatest game ever played. I look forward to what the next chapter in my life brings me. Maybe golf will be involved in some form or another.

No comments: