Ferriday High School coach creates golf team for students
FERRIDAY — Ferriday High School teacher K.G. Watkins wants all his students to know they can swing their way to a college scholarship.
And as Harvest Club president, Watkins knows no better way to develop young athletes into scholarship recipients than through golf.
Watkins helped coach Alcorn State University’s golf team alongside Natchez native Lynette Smith, and said he noticed the need for college golfers in historically black colleges and universities.
“(At tournaments), I saw Prairie View (A&M University) and Mississippi Valley (State University) didn’t have golf players,” Watkins said. “They had players from other sports trying to play so they can stay in NCAA regulations.”
NCAA regulations require a Division 1 university to field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender.
“The schools say they can’t find the players,” Watkins said. “I said if we can’t find them, then I’m going to mold my own.”
From there, a golf program was born.
Watkins, also a teacher and basketball coach at Ferriday High School, began posting fliers around the school to try out for the golf team.
“The kids were like, ‘golf, really?,” Watkins said. “But the kids that came out the first week, they’re still here.”
Watkins knows golf is an intricate game that takes years of experience, which is why he encouraged mostly freshmen and sophomores to join the team.
“Coaches out there need golfers and there are kids who want to play, they want to learn, they’re just raw,” Watkins said. “They’ve never seen the game, they don’t know how to hold a club. Last week (at the Harvest Club Open) was the first time they’ve ever seen an entire golf course.”
It seemed Watkins was the only person prepared for the “rawness” the players showed on the first day of practice.
Sophomore Alexus Calhoun said she had no idea the game would be so tough.
“It was hard,” she said. “I thought it would be easy to hit a golf ball. The hardest part is getting my stance right. I just want to be able to hit the ball well and have it go wherever I want it to go.”
Calhoun is the only female player on the team so far, with seven male counterparts.
The team practices on the Trojan football field as Watkins lines them up on the goal line with one golf club and a dozen balls each.
“We’re learning how to chip, then we’ll start learning the fore swing then playing with different clubs,” Watkins said. “Right now everyone is starting with wedges, it’s the easiest to control and it gets the best results because we’re about building their confidence right now.”
Markquell Johnson said he quickly found out how challenging the sport was, but it just further peaked his interest.
“After the first day, I found out it was harder than it looks, but I knew I wanted to try it again though it was hard,” Johnson said.
Watkins said golf would help his players mature as individuals.
“It requires for you to have honesty because you maintain your own score card, so integrity is a great part of the game,” Watkins said. “Also, golf is the only game that the only person you have to compete against is yourself. The only person you can get mad at is you.”
Watkins said the team wouldn’t compete in the LHSAA until 2015 or 2016.
“Once we can keep the ball in play and start scoring, we can start looking to play locally with Natchez High School and Cathedral High School and teams like that,” Watkins said. “Then we’ll start looking into getting into our own Louisiana district.”