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While volleyball coaches were battling screeching shoes on the gym floor and football coaches were teaching their linemen the merits of 7 a.m. conditioning drills, Matanzas High School’s boys golf coach had a different experience on the first day of fall sports Aug. 6.
In khaki shorts and a Matanzas-blue golf shirt, coach Ray Sykes cruised through the Palm Harbor course in the afternoon on a golf cart. He gave the boys some tips on putting (“You want to hit it hard enough to go a foot beyond the hole”), and then drove from the beginners to the intermediate players and finally to his best four.
On the course’s toughest hole, he watched Dominic Colletta, Carter Subers, Patrick Morris and Anthony Hunter tee up and rocket the ball high above the fairway. He watched the ball hang in the air and practically disappear in the blue sky.
Sykes knows he’s a lucky devil, but he doesn’t brag. He doesn’t want any other coaches to get too jealous of his schedule: Monday through Thursday on the golf course, starting now.
He gets to guide the development of players like 15-year-old Nicholas Jahn, who despite having shot a personal-best 32 on nine holes last fall, knows he has to work hard in his sophomore season.
“There’s some pressure to show our dominance and not get beaten by the freshmen,” he said with a straight face.
Jake Cohill, Kevin Peterson, James Mayer, Liam Thoubboron, Ian Kemp and Connor Sprunger are all trying to work their way into the starting six, which will likely be Sykes' top four, plus Jahn and senior Dylan Mulligan.
And they’re all attempting to enter the pantheon of Matanzas golfers, a short list that includes Fred Ferrara and Alec Bolla, who played together for Sykes in the regional tournament a few years ago.
In his travels on the cart Aug. 6, Sykes was pleasantly surprised to cross paths with Bolla, who now works at Hammock Beach and was playing with his mother, Beth, on his off day.
Afterward, Sykes said he’s been lucky also to have good kids to work with. He said, “It's rare you get a real buster.”
To raise funds for the team, Sykes is putting on the first Matanzas High School Boys Varsity Golf Team Golf Tournament. Registration is $65 per person at palmharborgolfclub.com/matanzasboysgolf for the 8:30 a.m. shotgun start Sept. 8, at Palm Harbor. The price includes continental breakfast, lunch and prizes. Call Sykes at 793-0655 for more.
But if you play, don’t follow the example of one of Sykes’ players in the past. The player brought a pocket fishing pole with him one day and wet a line during his round. The golfer was told, “You have to play. You can’t stop and fish!” The youngster replied: “My daddy would never forgive me if I let that bass go.”
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