Keyser, Frankfort golf teams open season as guinea pigs

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Keyser's Jacob Malcolm studies the green in action at Polish Pines on Wednesday.
Tribune photo by Chapin Jewell

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

KEYSER - Keyser golf coach Josh Blowe is entering his 13th year of coaching high school sports. Fresh out of college, Blowe coached boys’ basketball for a year at Keyser, then for the next 11 years straight has taught girls’ basketball for the Black and Gold. This year, Blowe has added the title of head golf coach to the mix.

While Josh has the coaching side of things down pat, coaching golf is in fact a new adventure. To prepare for that new adventure, Blowe has spent a tremendous amount of time in preparation for this season, both playing as much golf as possible and studying the nuances of the game.

“I’ve been just trying to learn the ins and outs of the rules.  What you can do, what you can’t do, when this happens, what do you do. I’ve really just spent hours of time really studying the rules and learning the rules,” Blowe stated.  

“Even in our first match yesterday, one of the rules came up and I wasn’t sure what to do. So I asked the other coaches and everyone was very helpful and friendly.”

According to Blowe, “Learning all the ins and outs is going to be a process, but I’m willing to do it.”

Golf is a different game compared to most other sports, both at the high school level and beyond. It’s competitive, yes, absolutely, but the pace of the game and the considerable time spent one-on-one with the competition creates a more genteel atmosphere than in a sport like basketball. It’s also as much of an individualized sport as it is a team sport.

“It’s still competitive, because it’s a team setting, but there’s also an individual aspect to it as well, which you don’t really get that in football or basketball. Basketball, it feels like you’re always full throttle, you’re tense all the time. Golf, it seems right now after one match, to be a little more laid back. I feel like everyone is helpful, it’s competitive but it’s not dog eat dog,” Blowe explained.

After a tremendously successful regular season a year ago, Keyser looks to build on that success, and thus far, with two wins under their belt in as many attempts, things look promising. The Golden Tornado has a good mix of experienced returners and young talent on the 2020 squad.

“Jacob Malcolm has been one or two on the team his entire career at Keyser. Darrick Broadwater, he’s been in the top three his entire career. Those two are seniors this year and they’ve been practicing a lot and putting a lot of time in. Yesterday it showed, they played off a little bit, but hopefully we can continue to play well,” Blowe stated.

In Keyser’s first match of the season, the low medalist was actually freshman Drew Matlick.

According to Blowe, “He (Matlick) has put a lot of time in with lessons. He’s put a lot of time in with the Callaway Junior Tour this summer. They’ve been everywhere from the Greenbrier to Canaan, so he’s been traveling all around playing. He’s a freshman, but honestly he’s experienced like s sophomore, he has a lot more experience than a lot of the other players.”

There are currently nine members of the Keyser golf squad, with a possible edition of a tenth player pending. The plan is for that group of nine or ten to play as much golf as possible, getting in as many matches as the current restrictions allow.

“Right now, we’re about two weeks late getting started but the season is going to end at the same time, so it’s more condensed.  We will not get in all 18 of our matches in for the regular season, but we are going to try and get as many in as we can.  Right now we have 13 or 14 scheduled of the 18 we’re allowed, so we’re hoping to take advantage of that.”

Like with every activity, COVID-19 has certainly altered the landscape, this extends to the golf course as well. Rules have been modified and of course social distancing and face coverings when not in active play are a must.

“Golf in itself, especially when you’re playing on the course in the heat of competition, you’re kind of too yourself, you’re separated a little bit anyway. We’re just making sure people are socially distanced, having a mask on, that sort of thing.  We want to do everything to follow the rules as best we can. We’ll do anything to stay safe.” Blowe explained.

That being said, there’s a sense both locally and across the state that high school golf is the guinea pig, based on the fact that it literally has a couple week head start on all other sports.  Practices may have begun at the same time, but in golf, actual contests can and did begin after only one day of practice.

“We are definitely the guinea pigs, I told the kids that the first day this summer, we have to really be on our game to follow all the rules and execute them,” Blowe stressed.

Frankfort golf coach Bill Cessna stands with Blowe in terms of taking the responsibility of COVID-19 restrictions seriously and making sure the rules are followed. There’s recognition from Cessna that due to the calendar, golf is the guinea pig for all sports activities that follow. Cessna has a wealth of golf coaching experience and recognizes that this year is definitely different than all the others before.

“We really have to take this seriously. We really have to do our jobs to make sure everybody has their face covered and is keeping their social distance. I go around with a bottle of hand sanitizer and keep their hands clean,” Cessna stated.  “We can’t share clubs, we can’t shake hands.”

According to Cessna, “It’s really different, and everybody is sort of keeping an eye of us now to see what we’re going to do because we started our contests ahead of everybody.  We feel like we’re the guinea pig. We’re the only sport where you can practice only one day and then start matches.”

Bill Cessna has extensive coaching experience dating back to 1976 and his first coaching assignment in Elk Garden. He’s coached at Keyser, Williamsport, Keyser again, and then mostly at his final teaching spot at Frankfort, from where he retired just two years ago. Cessna has coached a variety of sports and has been the head golf coach at Frankfort for approximately 20 years.

“There’s a lot of kids that maybe don’t have a lot of size, or a lot of speed, or maybe they’ve had an injury when they were younger. But they can pick up golf, and that’s something they can play the rest of their life,” Cessna stated. “I try to get baseball players that maybe don’t do anything in the fall to come out for golf, because they have real good hand-eye coordination and usually they can pick the ball up pretty good,” Cessna explained.

Cessna sees Frankfort’s 2020 golf squad as being consistent with and typical of most Falcon golf teams of the past.

“We don’t have any real, real outstanding golfers but we don’t have a golf course real, real close to us. But we’re very competitive. We’re about the same this year compared to the past. We usually have one or two good or above average golfers, and then we always have a few guys that are first year or second year or maybe just starting,” Cessna stated.

According to Cessna, “Senior captain Brady Whitacre will lead the way. Chase McCoy is in his junior year and he’s improving tremendously every year.  Keegan Bennett, what a swing pattern he has. He’s a really tall kid, I think he’s grown a foot since last year. Then we have the two Moorehead brothers (Landon and Ashton), and Bryson Lane who is a junior that came out this year. They’re doing a decent job.”

Golf at the high school level is a sport that doesn’t typically grab a tremendous amount of headlines. This year, however, due to the nature of its early start compared to other sports, it seems all eyes are on our high school golfers.

It may be COVID-19 driven, in terms of golf being the guinea pig for all other sports. Nonetheless, no matter why the eyes are on high school golf, the fact is, they are, and that’s rare. To that end, it’s a good thing, a good thing to see the young student-athlete golfers are getting well deserved recognition for their dedication to their craft, and a job well done.

(Match results to appear in Saturday’s edition of the Mineral News-Tribune).

Frankfort's Brady Whitacre prepares to putt during match play at Polish Pines on Wednesday.
Tribune photo by Chapin Jewell