Golf: A Jewish High School's Journey in Discovering a Sport for a Lifetime

Cindy Dolgin, Kerry Dalton

Our small school takes pride in our ability to accommodate as many students’ ideas and initiatives as possible to enhance the day school experience beyond the classroom. Nevertheless, we struggle to balance the appeal of a large and popular theatre department, mock trial team, and a full list of other extracurricular activities with team sports that require a “robust number” of skilled athletes. Our challenge in maintaining all these extracurriculars requires flexibility, creativity and improvisation. A few years ago, when the number of players for boys’ baseball began to falter, what began as disappointment for a few baseball enthusiasts turned into the birth of a new co-educational spring sports team: golf.


Like most ideas worth pursuing in our school, the idea for starting a golf team that ultimately benefitted others came from one individual student. “Josh” had received one-too-many injuries playing basketball and his parents would not allow him to continue playing contact sports for the remainder of the year. Josh needed to find a non-contact sport to fill his athletic soul or we were in serious danger of losing him as a student to the excellent high school in his home district that had a golf team.


Over lunch with a school supporter, the head of school shared this predicament. The donor offered to speak to the members of his club’s board and ask for permission for our school to use one of their courses. Who knew that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after school hours are low-volume usage times for golf courses? It turns out that despite the prestige of golf club membership, the "golf community” is concerned about the long-term viability of their clubs and have a vested interest in instilling a love of the sport for a growing pool of future members.


With the stipulation that the high school players be supervised by experienced adult golfers who are members of clubs and are fluent in course etiquette, two different country clubs in the area agreed to host our team for practices. One of the two clubs became our home course for interscholastic competitions.


As interscholastic sports go, golf has proven to be a surprisingly inexpensive sport to launch. The golf courses and country clubs have so far not been charging the school for use of their courses at non-peak times. The school has purchased golf clubs, golf balls and driving mats, and has also had used golf clubs donated. Transportation to and from the golf courses and the purchase of golf shirts are the only real expenses, yet our golf team has brought much attention and pride to our school.


With the formation of the golf team has come an excited and overwhelming response from many students within the school. This newfound enthusiasm has prompted the physical education department to incorporate golf into its curriculum. We now teach golf skills in our HS physical education classes, using the equipment purchased and collected for the golf team members. Even our elementary students have caught on, with a dozen taking part in an afterschool club.


For the first year of our team’s existence, our high school had few schools to compete against. Our interscholastic sports league for independent schools did not have an official golf program. We eventually joined a new athletic league that offered golf as an interscholastic sport, and with the new schools added we were able to encourage more schools to incorporate golf in their sports offerings. We started playing against two schools, then four, and in the 2016 season—Josh's senior year—we will play seven or eight teams.


One student’s idea, clever problem-solving and ability to recruit peer participation, combined with the behind-the-scenes networking of faculty and volunteer leadership resulted in an innovative solution, the birth of a new varsity team, school pride and blossoming leadership skills. Our baseball team may be “on hiatus” but the golf team flourishes.

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HaYidion Athletics Winter 2015
Winter 2015