Ken Harjes

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Ken Harjes

Ken Harjes: More than a game

Age: 59

Years in town: 29

Occupation: Moffat County High School boys varsity golf coach

❱ “My love was to coach football, and that’s what I had been doing. The last school I was at, the head coach had been there forever. I was told I could have the head coaching job if he left and if I wanted it. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted it, but then I came out here.

❱ When I came out here, there wasn’t a position open. I just didn’t worry about football, I figured it might open up eventually.

❱ Moving to the mountains meant more than taking that job.

❱ My dad didn’t play. He was an athlete, an excellent football player, but he didn’t play golf.

❱ There were only 12 teams on the Western Slope when I started. Now, there’s 22.

❱ I stayed in Vernal the night before and drove into Craig just on a whim. I found the (school) administration office — I even brought a tie and shirt with me. I had them hung up in my van.

❱ Coaching any sport is just a matter of working with the kids. Being a teacher, you learn a lot about working with kids.

❱ I said, ‘Do you guys have any positions open?’ The principal said they had two math teachers who quit yesterday. That’s me, I can teach math.

❱ I can think of several times when a kid missed going to state by one stroke. Mark (Dockstader) missed it this year. Richard Padon missed it two years in a row by one stroke.

❱ He offered me a job, so I went home and got everything that would fit in my van and my boat.

❱ The northwest corner wasn’t exactly where I wanted to go. I thought I wanted to be closer to Denver, but I figured if I get out here, in a couple of years I can move. It’s now 2009 and I haven’t gone someplace else.

❱ We’ve only won the regional tournament once. We’ve only taken a whole team to state once. It was either ’95 or ’96. (Nick) Bomba was a junior.

❱ I’ve always liked the game. I started playing when I was in high school. A couple of guys would get together and play. I was never really good.

❱ In ’80, a couple of kids came to me and said ‘We’ve been talking with the principal, and he said if we can find a coach we can start a golf program.’ It was just by chance. I’m the only one who has coached at Moffat County.

❱ It’s not like former football players can call up a coach and say ‘Lets go out and throw the football around.’ Sure, they’ll meet up, go out to dinner. I’ll get kids who will see me on the course or call me and say ‘Let’s go play 18.’ And it’s pretty neat to be able to do that.

❱ Ann Marie (Roberts) was on our golf team. We didn’t have a girls golf team back then. She played from the blue tees, the whole bit.

❱ I don’t think it would be that hard to replace me. We have people who know the game. My assistant coach now would do a good job. Joe Padon knows the game of golf.

❱ The kids I get year-in and year-out, the coaches, the people I work with … it’s really personal. I really like coming out here.

❱ Every time I think about quitting I say ‘I don’t know, it would be fun to see those guys again, spend some more time with them.’

❱ I really want these kids to be better golfers, but I want them to respect the game.

❱ It’s one of the only sports where you call your own penalties. You don’t have an official there, and that takes a lot of character to call yourself.

❱ When I watch football on TV on the weekends, they say ‘He’s holding. And he’s going to keep holding until he gets caught.’ That’s where society is right now — ‘I’m going to keep doing it until I get caught.’

❱ In golf, we don’t preach that. If the ball moves, you come out and say ‘Add a stroke to my score. Nobody saw it but me, but it moved and I’m going to call myself.’

❱ That keeps me in it, too. Just watching some classy things going on. It’s a great character builder.

❱ Not that other sports aren’t great. You can learn a lot from being on a team.

❱ It’s coming up. I thought about it two years ago. My wife is teaching at the high school, and I’ll stay here as long as she’s there.

❱ I would like to continue working with this group of sophomores. I want to work with Mark next year. He came on strong this year, not only as a golfer but as a person.

❱ I think the most rewarding thing is seeing kids improve dramatically from their freshman year to their senior year. I get a kid freshman year who can’t get a ball airborne, and by their senior year, they may not even be on varsity, may not be the best, but he’s playing some really good golf and having fun, that’s the most rewarding.

❱ We met here at the high school. She came here after I did. We married in ’95 and my daughter was born in the summer.

❱ You often say ‘He’s a natural football player, he’s a natural track athlete. He’s fast so he can run the 100. He’s fast so he can be a wide receiver. I don’t think you have too many people who are natural golfers. You just have to be patient and keep working at it.

❱ Finally, a chance came to coach football and I decided to stay with golf. That’s when golf had become more important to me, and I’ve become better at it.”

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