Others are measured by the numbers of student-athletes who
Then there are those programs like the high school
golf program that is a cooperative between Hartsburg-Emden and
For them, success is measured by how much the student-athletes
learn over the course of the season.
Jason Garber's title within the program may be "head golf coach,"
but it may as well be "head golf teacher."
Of Garber's 11-player roster, nine are freshmen or sophomores.
More interestingly, about half didn't know how to play the game
when they came out for the sport.
"Being a young team this year, it's a lot of teaching the game to
the kids," said Garber. "We talk about the rules of the game. Three
of them didn't have their own clubs. It's new lessons for the guys,
new philosophies, teaching the basics of the game.
"We talk about it being a gentleman's sport, the etiquette of the
game, knowing what to wear, how to wait for people to putt on the
green and that kind of stuff."
In some ways, Garber -- in his second year as a head coach -- is
a savior for the program. A 2005 Hartem graduate, Garber played golf
for two years at Carl Sandburg College, where he also played
basketball. After finishing up a master's degree from Western
Illinois University, Garber got into coaching as the head golf coach
and assistant basketball coach for the Stags.
If he hadn't accepted the job, there may have been no program
"Last year, before they called me to coach, they were considering
cutting the program," said Garber. "They were in the process of
that. The year before I got there, they only had eight kids go out
for the team."
With a young nucleus, it appears the program will be safe for the
immediate future. Garber says he's tried to keep things fairly loose
and encourages his players to have fun during practice and at meets.
"We're trying to teach them that it's about having fun," said
Garber. "It's a social game. It's about enjoying your time out
there, relaxing with your friends on the course. I'm not the most
demanding of them. I don't expect us all to shoot great scores. I
know we're not the best team right now.
"I'm just trying to teach them that it's a sport of honor. This
is a game where you keep your own score and you're honest about your
score. At the end of the day, we're going to be better people and
better students, not just better golfers."
Of course, he can't do it by himself. Garber relies heavily on
seniors Dirk Conrady and Zac Hartzler to support his leadership by
being examples for their younger teammates.
"Their role is huge for me," said Garber of his seniors. "If I
need anything, need to contact other players about meets and
practices, they are who I can go to. They hold everybody together,
especially in the times I can't be around.
"The first two weeks of practice, I put them with our freshman so
they can help the younger guys when I can't be around for everybody.
Frankly, I needed two people who knew how to keep score."
[to top of second column]
Another unique aspect that comes with being a small program is
that Garber's team actually includes both boys and girls.
Daphne Simer and Kaitlyn Dixon are both members of the program
and compete with boys during the regular season. Garber is hoping to
take them to the IHSA regional tournament in girls golf this season.
The two girls have different levels of skills and experience, but
they share a similar "can do" attitude.
Simer was new to the sport this year.
"When she came out, she didn't know the difference between a
putter and a driver," said Garber. "But she's very positive... She's
the first one to show up for the bus, swinging her golf clubs
outside while we wait for the bus. It's nice to see."
Dixon, by comparison, is in her second year as a golfer.
"She got lessons over the summer in Pekin, and she's come back
and played pretty good," said Garber of Dixon. "Last year, she
didn't compete in any meets for me. This year, she's my number four
junior varsity player. ... I've looked up some scores and she has a
chance, maybe, to get out of regionals."
The hardest part, in many cases, is teaching the mental aspect of
the sport. Golf can be a grueling, cruel game, where one bad shot on
one hole can derail an entire round. Recovering from that bad shot
or bad hole can be extremely challenging, especially for an
"The mental part is about the most coaching anyone can do in the
sport of golf," said Garber. "You can't really physically help them,
or call any plays to help them, right? So it's encouraging them when
they're down, bringing their spirits up so they're mentally not too
down on themselves. Just keep the round going.
"It's a lot of grinding things out. Keep going, on tough days."
Male or female, golf novice or golf veteran, Garber attempts to
teach them all something.
It's his hope that, over time, the program can grow and develop.
With continued teaching, of course.
Dirk Conrady, senior
Daphne Simer, junior
Dustin Wilham, sophomore
Sam Hodges, freshman
Teagan Teal, freshman
Ryan Borton, junior
Jon Gibson, sophomore
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]