Arcadia High’s boys’ golf team has some new leaders of the pack this year, and with their clubs in hand and new coach Stephen Danford on deck, they were ready to hit the green at the start of the season and continue to show the golf community what they’ve got.
Danford’s name probably sounds familiar to those who attend or have a child who attends AHS. He’s been a special education teacher and the basketball coach at Arcadia for a little over a decade.
When the golf coach position opened up, Danford decided he would try his hand at the sport as a change of pace from the bouncing, orange ball he’s used to.
“It’s been a lot of fun. The kids are great, and I love coaching,” he said. Danford said he will continue teaching and coaching basketball as well as being the golf coach this year.
Golf started in early August, with 18 matches and three tournaments scheduled throughout the season that ends in October. Danford said that the focus this year is to build on the culture that previous teams have made.
“I brought some of my philosophies and tools from basketball to the golf game, but they are really talented kids. It’s different from coaching on a court,” he said.
According to Danford, getting the players organized and ensuring they’re doing the right thing in the classroom and the community are two crucial facets of being a coach.
To gain a spot on the boys’ team, students had to play an 18-hole qualifier game, and the coaches made cuts based on performance. Twenty-two students tried out, and 10 made the team: two freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and three seniors. Danford said that at the start of this year, the boys needed to gain more experience on the green.
“For the last three years, AHS had some really great golfers – sophomores, juniors and seniors – so this group is learning how to lead, how to be the top dog,” he said.
A strength is that each player brings to the team this year is a high golf IQ; they know how to spot good and bad shots and when to take risks. Practices include working on hitting, putting, chipping, driving and range work. Players practice at Arizona Country Club and try to get in at least 18 holes a week to work on their form and range.
“Our goal as coaches is to make them better men first. If you’re good fundamentally, then the wins will take care of themselves – and these kids are really solid fundamentally,” Danford said.
In their first two matches in mid-August, AHS took first against Mountain Pointe and Saguaro and second place against Chaparral and Pinnacle. These matches help the boys get into a rhythm of playing each week and are part of Danford’s “getting work done” philosophy.
In each match, five players take on the other five from each school. Player one takes on player one from the opposing team, player two against player two, and so on. They play nine holes and whoever scores lowest wins the individual portion of the match. The lowest team score will win the match.
Danford had high praise for all team members, but shared some names to watch out for this season.
Juniors Parker Bond and Jack Peters and seniors John Dadam and Cameron Kaye are the glue that keeps the team together, according to Danford.
“These kids are excited to play and excited to be the leaders of this program,” Danford said.
The team has continued to try and rack up their best scores this season, hoping to make it to the state championship in late October in Tucson. The best seven scores from 18 matches will determine where schools are placed in the championship seed. Arcadia is currently ranked fifth in the state.