Friday, August 02, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Hatfield restarts JHS golf program

Leader sports editor

After a three-year hiatus, Jacksonville High School is restarting a golf program, which gets its season underway on Monday. Max Hatfield, who has been the head freshman football coach the last three years, is stepping away from football to head up the golf program. Only five players have been working through the summer, but Hatfield believes a few more will be added once school begins.

“Most schools get their teams together in the spring, but we gota late start because we got the final go-ahead right about that time,” Hatfield said. “The kids that have been working each week have really gotten better.

“I don’t know if you should expect a state championship this first year. Golf is a game that takes some time. But we’ve got some kids, if they continue to keep working at it, can be a pretty good team. Maybe the second year we’ll be after a state title.”

Juniors John Herman and Jeremy Wilson, and senior Michael Labron currently make up the boys team. Sophomores Nikole Hardison and Hailey Elmore are the only two girls on the team.

“A lot of them are just learning,” Hatfield said. “Hardison is the most experienced player we’ve got. She moved in last year and had played on the team where she came from. Hailey is taking lessons from a local pro and she’s getting a lot better. Jeremy Wilson has really improved quite a bit just in these last two weeks. I think he had a little breakthrough. Coach (Robbie) Walker from North Pulaski has been very helpful for us. We can get in there and compete and hold our own, but like anything, it’ll take some time and commitment to become a really good team.”

Local golf courses have also been willing to help out. The team practices four days a week at Hickory Creek Golf Course, and on Wednesday’s at Southern Oaks Country Club.

“That’s huge for these local courses to step up and help us out like this,” Hatfield said. “Even Cypress Creek offered to let our kids come out there and play. They all give us range balls and let the kids play for free. It’s just been great, especially Hickory Creek. Rocky Mantooth, (course owner) is a Jacksonville guy and he’s been super nice. He played at Ouachita Baptist and he just said, ‘look, I had to have people help me out along the way, so I’m not going to hesitate to help out now.”

Jacksonville will play its first match against Walker’s team at North Pulaski on Monday at Stone Links in Scott.