By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — McAlester’s golf program will feature two first-year head coaches when its season begins Monday: boys’ golf coach Jude Schlesselman, and girls’ golf coach Aron Holt. Though neither has been a head varsity coach before, both have plenty of experience as assistant or junior high coaches.
“I’ve always wanted to be a head coach,” Holt said Wednesday.
“Any time you get a chance to coach a new sport, it’s always an opportunity you want to go for.”
Neither the Buffs nor Lady Buffs reached the state tournament in 2013, though returning Buffs golfer Dexter Brown qualified as an individual. For the Buffs, last season broke a string of consecutive State appearances under then-coach Chris Zike, and Schlesselman said the team wants to get back to State this season.
“That’s always the ultimate goal,” Schlesselman said Wednesday. “I think we can (make State). We have some definite talent.”
Schlesselman said approximately 13 boys have shown up for preseason practices this month, five of who will end up on varsity. As a veteran with State experience, Brown is a lock for one of the five bags.
“He’s able to repeat his golf swing,” Schlesselman said of Brown. “He has a very mild manner about him to where when things go bad, he’s able to bounce back. Handles adversity extremely well.”
Though an illness at Regionals kept him from State last year, senior Josh Byrd has been a varsity golfer since he was a freshman, competing with the team at State in 2011 and 2012. Dakota Snell is another senior who should compete on varsity.
“He has a great swing,” Schlesselman said of Snell. “Great mechanics.”
The last two bags could go to two sophomores Garrett Carrion and Brady Justice. Senior Austin Taylor may also have a chance once he joins the team after the basketball season ends.
With the McAlester Country Club set to host Regionals this year, the Buffs can spend their first two months figuring out their exact varsity lineup, then enjoy a homefield advantage in their push for State.
“You also want to challenge them, I think, early,” Schlesselman said. “See how they respond and kind of see some weaknesses possibly you can address throughout the course of the season.”
For the Lady Buffs, senior Madison Young has been the de facto captain on an eight-girl team. Unable to join the girls’ golf team until the winter basketball season ends, Holt said he’s spoken primarily with Young to discuss team needs.
“She seems like a very mature young lady,” Holt said of Young.
“She’s been really helpful at answering all my questions and kind of being my eyes and ears over there until I get a chance to come over.”
The Lady Buffs have three more golfers back from last season’s team in juniors Allison Furlong and Lauren Woods and sophomore Eme Sherman. They also have four freshman, including Kat Battles, JoHanne Kalin and Madalyn Nix, all of whom Schlesselman coached in junior high last season.
“Those three work at it the most out of any of them,” Schlesselman said.
“They don’t take it too serious, but they work, and they understand what they’re doing.”
Khloe Shannon is the fourth Lady Buffs freshman. While some Lady Buffs may have more experience, Holt said that doesn’t guarantee anyone a varsity bag.
Qualifying rounds for the five bags took place Tuesday and Thursday.
“That’s one of the great things about being a first-year guy, is I don’t have any sort of preconceived notions at all,” Holt said. “It’s just going to be,
if you’re that sixth bag, then just get better. That’s what’s exciting about golf: it could be one or two strokes that keeps you from going (to tournaments).”
Holt said he played golf as a freshman at McAlester High School, while Schlesselman said he’s never played it competitively. But both have continued golfing recreationally throughout their lives.
For Holt, golf has always been a family activity. Schlesselman described the sport as “life in a microcosm.”
“You’ll have an opportunity out there to do the right thing, and you’re kind of tested on each shot, pretty much,” Schlesselman said. “Things are going to go well; things are going to go bad. How are you going to respond? What’s your temperament going to be?”
The Lady Buffs’ season starts Monday at 9 a.m. at the Haworth Tournament at the Idabel Country Club. The Buffs’ had been scheduled to compete in Ardmore at the Max Williamson Invitational on Monday, but Schlesselman said that tournament has been postponed.
The Buffs’ season starts March 10, when the McAlester Country Club hosts the McAlester Invitational at 10 a.m.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.