If there is a philosophy attached to Josh Shoemaker’s golf coaching, it centers on the word “fun.”
It’s a word he uses liberally during matches that pit his Commerce High School boys and girls golfers against themselves more than any opponent. That’s the nature of the pressure-driven game, the coach said. So keeping the atmosphere light-hearted is his constant aim, even as his players struggle for pars.
“Hey,” Shoemaker called out to one of the downtrodden, “Have fun.”
To another who walked by the coach’s golf cart 10 minutes later: “Just remember, you could be doing homework right now.”
As another group passed later, “How you doing?”
“I’m not chipping well,” answered Commerce’s Jake Turpin.
“Then putt it in,” Shoemaker said.
“20 yards?” a disbelieving Turpin asked.
“I don’t care if you hit it with a two by four as long as you get it close,” Shoemaker said, with a shrug and smile.
The coach then jumped out of his cart and walked with Turpin who moved from the green on one hole at Double Oaks Golf Club in Commerce to the tee on the next. What the coach really seemed to be saying on Monday afternoon was this: Just try your best.
The Tigers, despite their body language, won their match against Madison County by 13 strokes, 190-203.
Senior Dylan Young led CHS, as he has all year. He shot the low round of 42 with teammate Jonathan Book close behind him, posting a 43.
Young’s effort followed up his low score of the year last week against Banks County. The Tigers won 178-198, with Dalton Dean (46), Jake Turpin (46) and Book (49) supporting Young, who shot 37.
Despite the success and his detailed score charting, Shoemaker views the regular-season contests as having little to do with the outcome of the year.
That determination comes at the 18-hole, Region 8-A tournament, which is scheduled for April 17 at the Georgia Club in Statham.
“That’s the beauty about high school golf. It’s an individual sport and a team score,” Shoemaker said. “All of this is warm-up.”
The top two teams from the region tournament qualify for the state tournament in Augusta on May 7.
Additionally, the top-scoring golfer who is not on either of the top two teams will advance.
“I would like for them to compete at the region tournament and have a chance to advance,” Shoemaker said. “If not win it, then to qualify for state.”
Young, who is averaging a 41.1 this season, an average that includes his first and worst score (48) at the tough Chateau Elan course, is in a prime position.
He shot the low round against several opposing teams this year despite the Tigers’ losing overall. And he remains about four strokes better than his closest teammates on average.
“I’m proud of him. He has been practicing in the off season and has improved dramatically,” Shoemaker said. “He has qualified at No. 1 and stayed at No. 1.”
Of course, Shoemaker is hopeful both his teams will peak at the right time and advance together. That includes the Lady Tigers’ small squad, led by Haley Chestnut and Hannah McRee, players who continue to work toward consistency.
Though decidedly jovial in his approach to coaching, Shoemaker is mindful of the tradition that comes with CHS golf, which “has a history of some real good teams,” he said.
Even so, it’s just a game, Shoemaker reminds his players, one that lots of folks would love to pursue everyday.
“Just remember,” he told them at the beginning of the season. “You get to play golf everyday for free.”
Monday, March 26 at Double Oaks, Commerce
Commerce 190, Madison Co. 203
CHS— Boys, Dylan Young 42, Jake Turpin 56, Dalton Dean 53, Jonathan Book 43, Levi Brown 58, Preston Benton 52
Commerce 120, Madison Co. 85
CHS— Haley Chestnut 57, Hannah McRee 63
Thursday, March 22 at Trophy Club, Dacula
Hebron 180, Commerce 197
CHS—Dylan Young 43, Jake Turpin 56, Jonathan Book 55, Dalton Dean 54, Preston Benton 60, Levi Brown 63
Hebron 86, Commerce 114
CHS—Haley Chestnut 56, Hannah McRee 58
Tuesday, March 20 at Double Oaks, Commerce
Commerce 178, Banks County 198
CHS— Dylan Young 37 (medalist), Dalton Dean 46, Jake Turpin 46, and Jonathan Book 49.
CHS—Haley Chestnut 50