“Being an assistant coach opened my eyes to a new world of golf. I got a chance to help other golfers get better, and you can’t experience that by just playing.”
—Casey Kilpatrick, new Moffat County High School boys varsity golf head coach about teaching others the game of golf.
Casey Kilpatrick didn’t grow up on the golf course and doesn’t compete in the championship flight of any tournament at Yampa Valley Golf Course.
Kilpatrick, a born and raised Craig resident, probably ranks among the more casual players in a game that requires life-long dedication to rise to the top.
But, it’s Kilpatrick’s passion for the game of golf that gave him the edge for the Moffat County High School boys varsity golf head coach position when long-time coach Ken Harjes retired after the 2011 season.
And, MCHS athletic director Jeff Simon said it was Kilpatrick’s vision for the program that led him to offer Kilpatrick the position.
“Casey wants to build new excitement (for the program) and bring in young golfers to have a larger, more solid program at the high school,” Simon said. “His vision of building the program up is what we wanted.”
Kilpatrick, 29, graduated from MCHS in 2001 and studied at Northwest University in Washington.
He said he played golf some while in college, but it wasn’t until he became an English teacher at his alma mater, MCHS, in 2007 that he really started to get serious about the game.
“I really started playing golf a few years ago with other teachers and I just became addicted,” Kilpatrick said. “I really like golf and I like the idea that it is a game anyone can play and play for their entire life.”
Like most, Kilpatrick said he was “terrible” when he started playing the game.
However, instruction from a fellow coach — MCHS girls varsity golf coach Ann Marie Roberts — helped him improve on the course, he said.
“I was like everyone else when I started out and every once and a while I would hit a good shot, and that was enough to keep me coming back so I could try and replicate it,” Kilpatrick said. “But, when you are golfing you can’t see what you are doing, so you need someone who knows the game to watch your swing and help you.
“It was a great feeling when I really learned how to swing because of Ann Marie, and that kind of pushed me toward coaching.”
Kilpatrick said he knew Harjes back when Harjes was a teacher and he was a student.
Harjes encouraged him to apply for an assistant coaching position in 2009, Kilpatrick said, so he could help out the team.
Kilpatrick had coaching experience from working with the MCHS speech and debate team, but coaching golf was a brand new experience.
“Being an assistant coach opened my eyes to a new world of golf,” Kilpatrick said “I got a chance to help other golfers get better, and you can’t experience that by just playing.”
Having learned from Harjes, who coached for 31 years, Kilpatrick said there are things he wants to carry over into his regime.
Most importantly, the emphasis on the short game and putting.
“When Ken was coaching, he was continually striving for improvement in areas of the game that people don’t hit much, like the short game and iron play,” Kilpatrick said. “He would never say get out your driver and hit a bucket of balls, because you only use that club maybe 14 times in a round. But clubs like your irons and putters, you use every hole.
“Putting practice is never fun and no one likes to do it, but you have to do it to get better.”
Kilpatrick said he also wants to bring new elements to the program.
He wants to create a more inclusive team and he wants to incorporate more technology into the learning process.
“In my two years as an assistant coach the varsity was always separated from the JV, but I think by having them together more often we can create better team chemistry and a better level of competition,” he said. “I think if we could video tape each player’s swing and then have a film session like an hour a week, it could help more than me just modeling it to them.”
Kilpatrick said along with golf being a life-long game, he also enjoys the camaraderie that comes along with playing the game.
And, there is no one he enjoys playing golf with more than his 5-year-old daughter, Hannah.
Harjes raised his daughter, Caitlin, playing golf, and she now competes on the MCHS girls team.
Kilpatrick said he hopes to enjoy a similar bond with his daughter.
“My daughter loves golf, and as far as my personal life goes, it is nice to be able to go out and play with her,” he said. “We can get a cart, go out there for a couple of hours and play and build a relationship out on the golf course.”
Kilpatrick said Justin Folley, who teaches at Craig Middle School and coaches the MCHS baseball team and CMS boys basketball team, will take over the assistant coach position next season.
Taking over for the man who started the program isn’t easy, Kilpatrick said, but he is ready for the challenge.
“Justin and I want to start recruiting kids as they enter their freshman year,” he said. “ We are excited about taking over the program.”
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