Summer breaks seem to be getting shorter for teachers and coaches these days.
It’s especially true for Jim Williams, whose time off consisted of just little more than six weeks.
That’s how much “free time” was available between June 18, when the Center Grove boys golf team finished play in the IHSAA state finals to cap the spring season, and last week, when the Trojans girls golf squad began practice for the fall campaign, which is now underway.
Center Grove opened the season Tuesday against county rival Greenwood at Dye’s Walk Country Club.
Did Williams think he could, or would, ever have such a short summer break?
“No. Emphatically no,” he said with a smile.
That smile is a dead giveaway. This isn’t all work for him.
The fact is, the veteran coach (and English teacher by day) enjoys guiding young women and — as of last spring — young men as they compete for their school.
No one knows that better than Center Grove athletics director Jon Zwitt.
“Jim is a golf junkie, and he enjoys the main facets of the game,” Zwitt said. “That fact, and his experience as the CG head girls coach for 10 years, proved invaluable toward the success he enjoyed this past spring. Obviously, in any sport, coaching talent is far more appealing than the flip side, but there are so many factors involved to be a quality coach.
“Jim proved that repeatedly and was well received by the team from start to finish.”
Zwitt selected Williams to take on the boys team after its previous head coach, Doug Keller, required emergency back surgery during the regional round of the 2013 spring season.
Deb McClurg, the Trojans’ assistant coach at that time, and Zwitt drove the team to Henryville that day. Keller later was not able to return, so Williams agreed to take on the responsibilities of guiding the boys, too.
“I really appreciate his willingness to coach both teams, especially under the circumstances,” Zwitt said. “Part of the hesitancy was the time factor, with Jim coaching girls in the fall and middle school basketball in the winter and having his son, Jackson, in the competition for a varsity basketball spot in the spring.”
Both of Williams’ golf teams look forward to successful seasons.
The girls roster features most of its starters from last year, when Center Grove finished second in the sectional and took fifth-place in the regional.
The Trojans’ two seniors, Marissa Anderson and Raquel Helton, are confident of leading the team to girls state finals for the first time since 2011, when the Trojans captured
titles in both the sectional and regional rounds.
Both girls credit their coach for his positive approach, all the little things he says and does to boost one of the most vital parts of a golfer’s game — confidence.
“He’s a great mentor,” Anderson said. “He helps us no matter what, even if it’s just been a bad day at school. He’s very caring. I remember the first day my freshman year when I first tried out. I hit one into the trees. He saw I was frustrated. He told me trees are 90 percent air.
“That left such a good impression on me. It put me at ease.”
Helton, a fourth-year team member, said Williams has helped her find the balance between being serious and having fun. Moreover, he persuaded her not to give up on a game she could play the rest of her life.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to play golf,” Helton said. “He helped me enjoy golf.”
Williams said the difference in Helton between her sophomore and junior years was dramatic.
“She came out on fire last year,” he said. “She’s just a fun kid to be around. I’ve not seen her have a bad day.”
As for his other senior, Anderson, Williams noted: “After last year, she had a good (offseason). She’s hungry for this year.
“There’s a lot of respect for our seniors. They have to shoulder the load.”
Williams, meanwhile, insists the players’ love of the game and a willingness to put in the work are their chief attributes. And has high praise for his longtime assistant coach, Jeff Buckmaster.
“Jeff is invaluable. He’s my rabbit in practices. One of the challenges is getting the girls to play faster,” Williams said. “They don’t realize they’re playing faster when they are. He’s been the best assistant coach.”
Williams has high expectations for the boys team next spring, as well.
The Trojans, ranked No. 7 in the final state poll after starting the year No. 14, won their sectional and — following a disappointing first-round performance — finished sixth at the state finals in the 15-team field.
“After the first round, all of us thought we could do a little bit better,” Williams said. “We played a pretty good (second) round. Now everybody, to a man, is really looking forward to next year.”
The longtime Center Grove coach and high school alumnus agrees there are differences between male and female competitors, but both groups just want to keep getting better “when it’s all said and done.”
“The boys are different. Their agenda seems to be different,” Williams said. “We would call practice, and they would still be out working on their games. We have kids on both teams who love to play.
“That’s the beauty of it all.”