Jim Williams might never forgive himself for resigning as Center Grove’s boys golf coach six months before the program won its first state championship. But being available to watch his son Jackson’s freshman golf season at Franklin College helped to soften the blow.
Williams, who brought Center Grove to the state finals each of his three seasons (2014-16) and finished sixth, second and third, recognized the talented players returning and what he risked missing out on when he submitted his letter of resignation in November.
His timing proved impeccable and terrible at the same time.
Williams drove to nearly every Franklin College competition during the spring season. Meanwhile, the Trojans capped off their championship run with a 13-stroke victory over runner-up Carmel at Prairie View Golf Course on June 14.
“I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t bother me a little bit. We invested quite a bit of time in getting the program back to where we were vying for state titles,” said Williams, who added that his mother’s health issues at the time also contributed to him deciding to step down.
“But I was happy for the kids, happy for (coach Matt Rodman) and happy for Center Grove.”
Jackson Williams, a starter for his father’s final Center Grove squad and the No. 5 player at the 2016 IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals, enjoyed successful fall and spring seasons with the Franklin College program.
In April, his two-day score of 155 tied him for fourth place at the Earlham Spring Invitational. The same total tied him for 19th at the Defiance (Ohio) Spring Invitational. Williams is one of four Grizzlies players who placed in the top 20 individually at the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
Franklin College finished fourth in the nine-team event.
During the spring, the coach-player dynamic the two experienced during Jackson’s high school career gradually shifted back to father-son.
Jim remained in the background at the Grizzlies’ meets, quietly observing and taking notes. Only after Jackson completed his round would the two get together to discuss strategy.
Sometimes this meant minutes. Other times, hours or even days passed before they talked about Jackson’s most recent outing.
“I enjoyed it. In high school when we played he was always out on the course coaching. He would see me occasionally, but it was a little different seeing him for all 18 or 36 holes,” Jackson said. “It was his own decision. I didn’t care either way.
“He could have stayed and coached the boys team, but if he wanted to follow me, he could follow me.”
Jim Williams still coaches Center Grove girls golf in the fall and middle school boys basketball in the winter. In the spring, there were times when Jackson called or texted his father so they could meet and work on whatever part of Jackson’s game required fine-tuning.
The elder Williams relished the opportunity and figures to be at most of the Grizzlies’ spring events the next three years.
“The fun part was getting to watch Jackson play. I had never been able to do that. I went over to Ohio and watched him there and bounced around a few places wherever his team was playing. That part was a blast,” Jim said.
“I went from being his coach to being a dad and being a friend.”