Feb. 4, 2022 — There are exciting developments for students in Florence as an additional option for interscholastic athletic competition has been added for spring. High school golf returns as a spring sport option at Siuslaw High School for the 2021-22 school year.
At its December meeting, the Siuslaw School District Board of Directors discussed the potential return of the sport for the upcoming spring season. Board members agreed they could see no issue with bringing back the sport Siuslaw hasn’t competed in since spring 2015.
Siuslaw Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak said the only money the district would have to spend the first year would be for transportation costs and a substitute for the teacher coaching the team when the team was at competitions. Also helping to keep the cost low is the fact that that the teacher that will coach the team, Chuck Johnson, has agreed to coach the first year without stipend.
A few weeks later, an announcement was made that the board had decided to move forward with the plan.
"The Siuslaw 97J Board of Directors has approved boys and girls golf this spring," announced SHS Athletic Director Chris Johnson, no relation to Chuck. “It is exciting to bring back one of the traditionally strongest and most competitive programs in school history, at least in terms of high-level success at the state level."
The Viking golf program returns with a legacy as one of the school’s more successful sports programs. SHS had three team state championships in the sport, In 1993, 1994 and 2005. Also, three Viking golfers have won individual state titles: Doug Kelly in 1993, Craig Stewart in 1996 and a remarkable run by Jesse Schutte, who took the Oregon 3A title three consecutive years, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Chuck, who is a physical education teacher at Siuslaw High, comes to Florence from Idaho where he coached for 34 years, seven of which were leading golf program at a 5A school.
He realizes he’s starting from scratch and that building a golf program will be a slow process. He plans to build the program the same way person would build their golf skills, gradually.
“The thing that we want to do is get kids out there hitting golf balls and getting a feel for the game,” Chuck said. “The crazy thing about golf is you don't have to be good at it to enjoy it, but when you start, you're going to struggle. If you stick to it, you're going to be in a level where you can compete.”
Coach Johnson pointed out that because there hasn’t been a golf team at Siuslaw High for a few years, not only will he and his coaches have to teach the kids how to play golf, they’ll have to teach the many unwritten rules that go with the game that has been around for centuries.
“We're going to teach golf etiquette to the kids,” he said. “We're going to have to teach everything from where you put your bag when you go to hit a ball, how you act on the tee box and when it’s time to hit the ball.”
Excitement is growing around campus for the addition of the new sport.
According to Coach Johnson, there are eight boys and six girls signed up thus far, which gives the squad enough players to compete in team competitions. He would love to see more students sign up.
And, though they are still working on a schedule for competitions, both local golf courses are excited to support the program.
“We don’t even have a schedule yet,” the coach said. “We're just trying to get everything in order. But here's the beautiful thing — one of the most important things to creating a successful golf program is having a golf course that will support you. We are double lucky. Both golf courses [Florence Golf Links and Ocean Dunes Golf Course] are all for this and they're going to help us out.”
Coach Johnson sees exciting developments already happening for youth golf around town. He points out that even for younger kids, not yet in high school, there are plenty of opportunities for kids to work on their game.
“Nick Remer runs a great junior golf program out at Florence Golf Links,” Coach Johnson said. “Kids in the area should look into that. Also consider joining the OGA Junior Golf program and play as many tournaments as you can.”
Remer can be reached at [email protected]
From day one, Coach Johnson will preach patience, persistence and the rewards they provide.
“Our kids are going to have fun, but they're going to struggle in the beginning,” he said. “We’ve got to understand that everybody starts somewhere and it’s really where you finish more than where you start.”
When the SHS golf team will start is Feb. 28, the first day of practice. Students interested in playing or parents of students looking for information can call the high school directly, 541-997-3448, or e-mail Coach Johnson at [email protected].
For more information on local golf courses, go to florencegolflinks.com or www.threeriverscasino.com/golf.