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High School golf coaches focus on building skills

With many players using private swing mentors, high school golf coaches work on other areas of game


High school golf coaches often find their roles are amended from teaching to enhancing.

Many of the top high school golfers have private mentors who instruct players on proper swing mechanics. That leaves high school coaches to work on other areas of the game like effective practice routines, course management, improving focus and offering encouragement.

Both Rock Canyon coach Dave Vahling and Legend coach Jay Nelson say they work to reinforce what their players are learning from their swing coaches.

“What we try to do with them is ask what they have been working on with their swing coach and reinforce that,” Vahling said.

The Legend coaching staff evaluates to see “if they are strengthening those skills in our practices,” Nelson said.

Standley Lake coach Ron Rosa Jr. knows two private coaches who instruct some of his players, and he works with them.

“Anything I need an expert opinion on, I know who to call,” Rosa said. 

As an instructor for MetaGolf and the head boys coach at Valor Christian, Jason Preeo does double duty.

“The kids on my team that I also coach outside of it, I talk about things we’ve done in the past or things we want to change,” Preeo said. “For kids who do their instruction with someone else other than me, I’ll just say, ‘Why don’t you ask your coach about this or I’ve noticed this.’ I’ll let them defer to their coach. They do spend more time with him than they do with a high school coach.”

Boys high school golfers started practice Aug. 7 with the first matches on Aug. 10. Regis Jesuit is the defending Class 5A champion, edging Highlands Ranch by one shot last season. Valor Christian was third in the 2016 Class 4A state tourney.

This season’s 5A state tournament set for Oct. 2-3 at Common Ground in Aurora, while Raccoon Creek near Littleton will host the 4A tourney on the same dates. Indian Peaks will be the venue for the 3A state tournament on Oct. 2-3.

High school coaches will have five weeks to polish the skills of their golfers prior to Sept. 18 regional state-qualifying tournaments for all three classifications.

“When practicing or playing on the course we help with course management, club and shot selection,” Vahling said. “The mental part is very tricky from player to player, and our thought is to help them forget a bad hole and bounce back on the next hole. We try to keep them in a positive frame of mind. We work with them on planning out the course they will be playing that week.”

Short game skills are usually a priority in most high school practices.

“The biggest way we can help our players is with their short game,” said Arapahoe coach Harry Buckner. “We have many drills for putting and chipping.”

There’s the clock drill with three balls that are placed at 2 feet, 3 feet and 4 feet from the hole in the 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions on a clock. Players need to make all 12 putts to finish. There is also a ladder drill for speed control and long distance control where golfers aim putts to stop near tees on the green.

For chipping, players have to chip inside the 3-foot circle and competition is held between players. Arapahoe players form teams where one player chips and his partner putts in a bracket tournament.

“Short games can keep interest for about an hour,” Buckner said.


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