By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Sports are often associated with figurative injuries. A loss can be “heartbreaking,” for example, or “gut-wrenching.”
Golf was quite literally “teeth-ripping” at one point for McAlester senior Dakota Snell, and even that couldn’t scare him away.
“When I was 10, I got hit with a golf ball in the mouth,” Snell said.
“When it hit me, it took my teeth and ripped them out. It just pretty much filleted the inside the mouth. It was pretty gruesome. Most people ask why in the world I would still play golf after that, but for some reason I kept doing it. I couldn’t stay away.”
A Frink-Chambers student through eighth grade, Snell grew up golfing with his grandfather Jon Amundson. They’d golf together at Arrowhead State Park Golf Course in Canadian, and Snell started golfing competitively as a freshman at Savanna.
“I was playing baseball, and they were short a person and (the golf coach) asked me to play in one tournament,” Snell said. “I ended up playing the rest of the season, so I went between baseball and golf and juggled those two.”
Snell transferred to McAlester High School for his 10th-grade year and immediately went back to golf. He played on the JV team as a sophomore — the last time the Buffs’ varsity qualified for State as a team — then moved up to varsity as junior.
“Going to my first varsity tournament was a great accomplishment,” Snell said.
“Ardmore, 36-hole tournament, Lakeview and Dornick (Hills). Not my best performance, but it was fun. I had a great time.”
Snell’s remained on varsity this season.
“I would love for all of us to go as a team to State,” Snell said. “I would love to see that for my senior year, and do very well and potentially have our games on and place. That would be a very wonderful goal to reach.”
As a golfer, Snell said his strength is his mid-range game. Putting has come more slowly, but it’s improved thanks to coaches such as former Buffs coach Chris Zike and current coach Jude Schlesselman.
“Golf is almost 100 percent mental,” Snell said. “Your game depends on what your mood is. Coach (Schlesselman) taught us the ‘10-yard rule.’ You can get as mad at you want until you get 10 yards away from the ball. Then, you just forget. You forget about the last shot and you go on to the next one. It helps.”
Snell said the team’s “positivity” has been his favorite thing about being a Buffs golfer.
“It’s always fun to be around positive people, because it puts you in a positive attitude,” Snell said. “You can be in a mad mood, and the minute you step on the golf course, you’re outside, enjoying it, and you’re with your friends. You can’t beat it; it’s a great way to release all the negativity from that day.”
Snell said he transferred from Savanna because he wanted a more “hands-on” education. He found that at MHS, enjoying its visual arts department and especially working on Buff TV.
“I enjoyed every second of that,” Snell said. “It was great hands-on work. I learned a lot about it, how to use the software and how to edit.”
Already accepted to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Snell said he may want to study digital media and become a video or photo journalist. After taking the Buff TV video elective at MHS in the fall, Snell said he’s now taking a photography class at Kiamichi Technology Center.
But Snell also said he’s interested in architecture, choosing OSU in part for its strong architecture program.
“Everyone has a story, and I think it’s good to hear it and let other people hear it, too,” Snell said.
“I don’t think you have to have just one particular interest in life. It’d be cool if I’d be able to do one of those and it could lead me into another one, because I think digital media can go with architecture in a lot of ways.”
When he’s not golfing, Snell works at Wayside Designs, the Tal Light-owned accessory shop in McAlester that installs audio sets and also does custom fabrication and detailing for multiple types of vehicles.
Snell is also an avid duck-hunter.
“It’s good to take some time away for yourself and just sit back and think about things,” Snell said of hunting. “It’s a good way to release.”
Snell became a Savanna golfer almost on a whim.
But three years later as one of the Buffs’ varsity bags, Snell has made a home for himself on the links.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.