Thursday, August 15, 2013
- by B.B. Branton
“For a group of students who have never played golf, it is amazing how far they have come in just a few practices since mid-July. I am impressed with their great attitude as they learn a new sport.”
Kevin Kauchak, Brainerd HS golf coach
Six pair of eyes watch intently as their coaches show proper technique.
Six pair of ears listen and do their best to compute the complexity of hitting a little white ball straight and far.
A half dozen young men have come together to form the Brainerd High School boys’ golf team and lay the foundation for what the school administration feels is a bright future for the sport.
One (Tyree Stubbs) is a senior on the basketball team, another (Kadarius Scott) is a sophomore on the school debate team and a member of the student council, while a third (Michael Julius) is a junior likes to play just to get some exercise.
And a fourth - freshman James Ford - is the golf veteran on the team having gone through The First Tee of Chattanooga program for the past three summers offered through the Avondale Recreation Center.
“Many teachers and students at school are excited that we are starting a golf team and it has been a cool experience in introducing these guy to a new sport,” said coach Kevin Kauchak (Cow-check).
“We have a swimming facility and tennis courts adjacent to our campus and a nice golf course a mile down the road, “ said Brainerd High School principal Uras Agee. “We have plenty of talented athletes in the school and offering the country club sports of golf, tennis and swimming to our students is way over do.
“I think in time we can do well in all three sports.”
Taking a short break from hitting range balls at the Wilcox Driving Range Wednesday afternoon, Ford promptly answers, “respect for other players, courtesy and responsibility,” to the question posed him of what he learned through The First Tee of Chattanooga program.
He then turns his attention back to hitting the little white ball and hits a clean shot 120 yards straight to the intended target, followed by a dribbler off the artificial carpet and another long shot which would have worked fine on a hole playing dogleg right.
“I have made good progress in the last few weeks as my first shot went two feet and now I can hit a solid 5-iron,” he said with a smile and confidence.
“Just hitting the ball, period is a challenge for me,” stated sophomore Micah Darden who listens as assistant coach Will Casey offers advice.
Some Guy Named Palmer? While setting up for a team photo, the players were asked if they knew who recently crowned PGA champion Jason Dufner is and three hands went up in the affirmative, while three more hands went skyward knowing that Phil Mickelson had also won a big tournament this summer. A couple of student-athletes recognized the name Jack Nicklaus. All knew Tiger Woods, but the king, Arnold Palmer was a mystery.
Need For Equipment: What is not a mystery is while Ford hits a few good shots with a borrowed 5-iron, he and his teammates are not only way behind their golfing piers at other schools in Hamilton County in much-needed knowledge and experience in golf strategy, they are sorely lacking in equipment in a country club sport that requires good funding.
“Local Chili’s Restaurants have been great in giving money to cover visors, golf shirts and shorts for our matches, but we still need other items,” said Kauchak who would like to add girls golf next fall.
He also noted that Tennessee Golf Foundation through the assistance of Dori Paschall, regional director for Chattanooga, has donated some clubs and bags for the players.
Golf Clubs, Golf Shoes and More … : “The folks at Brainerd Golf Course and here at Wilcox Driving Range have been great to give our guys discounts, but we need a complete set of clubs and a bag for each player and golf shoes,” said coach Casey who is an assistant pro at the Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club. “We are hoping we can get either individuals or corporations to help support our golf team.”
“If you had seen them the first day of practice a month ago and then come back today you would be amazed at the progress they have made,” stated Kauchak who also teaches math and is the Brainerd girls varsity assistant basketball coach.
“I am also well aware that hitting balls at the driving range and playing nine holes is totally different and a huge challenge for these guys.”
First Match: The Panthers first challenge will be a home match on Aug. 28 with the McCallie Junior Varsity at the Brainerd Golf Course.
Kauchak said, “we also host Chattanooga Central on Sept. 4 and I am working on a date to play Arts and Sciences and also want to have away matches with the same three schools.”
In a school known for its rich tradition in track, basketball and football, coach Kauchak and principal Agee believe with enough resources and the students putting in the time to develop their skills, a solid new sport will emerge on North Moore Road.
“I am excited to have such a young team so that when they are juniors and seniors they can look back on this first year with pride in knowing they started something special at Brainerd High School and all the hard work will have paid off.
And the swings and misses and errant tee shots for players such as Micah Darden and James Ford hopefully will be few and far between during the next few years as they watch, learn and try to emulate their game after Dufner, Woods and even some guy named Palmer.
Contact B.B. Branton at firstname.lastname@example.org