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Riverside High drive for golf teams succeeds: School district launches program

After years of germination, the idea of golf teams in the Riverside School District has taken root and this year a dozen high school students will grab their clubs and hit the golf course.

“We’re having a blast,” said coach Chelsea Bayley, who leads the boys and girls teams. “We have a few new-to-the-game kids, but there are some who have been waiting for this.”

Bayley played golf as a student at Whitworth University and when she began teaching at Riverside High School three years ago she brought the idea of golf teams to the superintendent. It didn’t happen right away, however. “It’s hard to add money into the budget,” she said.

This year Bayley lined up the support of the Deer Park Golf Club, which agreed to let the team practice at their course and also provided some funding. “They ended up giving us a really nice donation to help us get started,” she said.

Students are responsible for providing their own golf clubs, but Bayley said several sets have been donated to help making joining the team more affordable for those who might need assistance. The schedule this year is light, and includes four league events and one invitational.

“We’re on a pilot program this year so our tournaments are limited,” Bayley said.

Bayley spent her time talking up the idea of golf teams while the idea simmered in the background. Four girls and eight boys signed up when the new teams were announced.

“They know I know what I’m talking about,” she said. “They want to learn something new.”

Bayley didn’t start playing golf until her early teens. Her younger brother, however, started when he was 4 and she spent multiple hours on the course watching him play. Derek Bayley, who has several local championships under his belt, recently turned pro.

She said she spent so much time on golf courses she thought she should learn the game and began taking lessons. “I fell in love with it and never looked back,” she said.

The snow on the ground means Bayley has had to be innovative about teaching her teams. She and her assistant, a volunteer who works as a teaching pro at the Deer Park Golf Club, have been going over the rules. They’ve had putting practice in her classroom using sticky notes as holes.

Freshman Silas Ng said he learned to play five years ago. “I play golf usually a couple times a year,” he said.

He’s been hearing about a possible team and was excited to join, so excited that he didn’t go out for baseball like he usually does. “I enjoy golf just a little bit more,” he said. “It should be fun.”

He also plays football and basketball and said he likes that golf isn’t a team sport. “It’s nice to do an individual sport,” he said.

Ng said he’s already learned things about his grip and his swings that have helped him improve. “I think it’s really fun,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot in just the last few weeks.”

Recently the team got indoor rubber balls and have been practicing in the Chattaroy Elementary gym. “This group of kids is a really good group,” Bayley said. “They’ve already gotten better.”

Since the golf courses are snowed in, Bayley hasn’t even seen her students play yet. “I don’t really know what to expect,” she said. “You never know what you’ve got until you get on the course.”

Sophomore Kaylynn McClimans said she had never picked up a golf club before joining the team but signed up because Bayley made it sound like fun. So far that’s been true, she said.

“It’s going pretty well,” she said. “The little things that we’re doing in the gym help out a lot.”

She said she’s found it less intimidating to start in the gym than on an actual golf course. “It starts simple and easy,” she said. “As the practices go on it gets better and better. It’s just a lot of fun to play.”

While Bayley is competitive and wants her students to win, she said she isn’t going to focus on that. Instead she wants her students to have fun and improve and in turn attract more students to the team.

“The goal is to build a program,” she said.