In 1984, Ken Harjes coached Ann Marie Roberts, who was one of two females on an otherwise all-male Moffat County High School golf team.
Roberts, an MCHS freshman at the time, didn’t have a choice — there was no girls golf team at the high school.
“I love golf and Ken was good to us and he coached in a way that made going to practice fun,” Roberts said. “I would go back in a heartbeat.”
Almost 27 years later, Roberts is at the helm of the MCHS girls golf team and coaching her own up and coming freshman.
As fate would have it, that young golfer is Caitlin Harjes, Ken’s only daughter.
“After all these years, I now know what (Ken) went through when he coached me,” Roberts said.
Caitlin’s experience with the sport started when she was 5.
It wasn’t as much about golf, Caitlin said, as it was about the experience of being with her dad out on the greens.
“I think my dad wanted to teach me golf because it was something he enjoyed and he wanted to play with me,” she said. “Golf was something we could have in common.”
Because Caitlin was so young, Ken said he bought her one club to start — a putter.
“I wasn’t sure if Caitlin was left or right handed, so I bought her a putter she could use with either hand,” he said. “She went out right away and started using it on the green.”
Ken said part of the reason he introduced his daughter to the game was also because it was one of the few hobbies a father and daughter can share.
“I never made (Caitlin) play golf, I just wanted to expose her to it and if she didn’t like it, she could quit,” he said. “I bought her a small set about two years after she started and she seemed like a natural.
“I think it is hard for daughters and fathers to do something together they both like.”
Caitlin said for the first couple of years her dad didn’t teach her much technique, just basics of the game.
Still, she said her father wanted her to get out and experience something new.
“When I was young, I just got taught the basics and worked on those,” she said. “As I got older, he helped me with my driving and my long distance shots because that is what I struggled with.”
Caitlin became a better golfer through junior tournaments at Yampa Valley Golf Course, but also continued to learn from her father, she said
Ken has been the MCHS boys varsity golf coach since he helped start the program in 1981.
“My dad has patience with me and makes sure I continue to do the right things,” Caitlin said. “He teaches me about the same way he has taught the guys golf team.”
Ken said he started playing golf when he was in high school with a couple of friends, but really got serious about the game when he started coaching.
Continuing with golf has paid off in more ways than one, he said.
“When I first played a round with Caitlin, I thought to myself, ‘This is real,’” he said. “It is amazing I can share this part of my life with my daughter.”
While Caitlin has succeeded on the golf course, she also has an artistic side.
She plays guitar, sings and performed in the MCHS musical “The Sound of Music” in November, and the spring play, “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood,” earlier this month.
“I started playing guitar five years ago, but I have been singing since I was in third grade,” she said. “My mom wanted me to try the school musical and that kind of transitioned into the play.”
The fairway and the stage, Caitlin said, have some similarities.
“I really enjoy the spotlight and I feel comfortable on stage,” she said. “I feel comfortable when I am put around difficult situations.”
As Caitlin has moved up from junior tournaments to high school golf, she has also transitioned from one coach to the next.
Roberts said it has been a great experience working with both of them.
“When Caitlin started, Ken knew her teaching had to go from him to me,” Roberts said. “I know it had to be hard for him, but it was the right thing to do.”
Ken, however, can’t resist helping his daughter, he said.
“I usually ask (Caitlin) what Ann Marie has taught her and then I try to reinforce those things,” he said. “Going from teaching to more of a parent, I think the biggest thing I help her with is the mental aspect.”
Caitlin played in her first varsity tournament March 21. The tournament was also her first time playing on a golf course other than Yampa Valley Golf Course.
“She was pretty nervous, but I told her it didn’t matter if she got first or last,” Ken said. “Everyone has a first tournament, so I told her not to worry about the score.”
Through the sport, Caitlin said she has not only developed a skill, but also become closer with her father.
“I have a lot of things in common with my mom, so golf is a nice way to be with my dad,” she said. “It is really important to my dad for us to spend time together and golf has definitely made us closer.”
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