Volunteer golf coach Matt Preston’s enthusiasm for golf is quite contagious. It’s his enthusiasm that gave a platform to Wylie’s developing junior high golf program — one of a handful of junior high school golf programs in the state of Texas.
The program started in 2017 with about fifteen players signed up, but has grown tremendously since with over forty students attending tryouts this past summer. The current junior high golf team consists of thirty students from both Wylie junior high campuses.
On Saturday, Oct. 22, Wylie held its fifth golf tournament since September of 2021. Students from schools around Abilene and surrounding areas who don’t currently have golf programs at their schools compete at these tournaments. Players from Jim Ned, Cooper, and Abilene have welcomed this opportunity, and Preston couldn’t be more pleased.
Preston said Abilene ISD is seeing the want and the need of the students they serve and are looking to start its own junior high golf program. Preston said it was the support from Wylie Superintendent, Joey Light, that has made this program happen for Wylie.
“Mr. Light has been instrumental in the success of this program,” said Preston. “He has such a servant’s heart and with the challenge of having limited bus drivers available has even driven the little bus to get us to the golf course for practice.”
The junior high golf program is increasing the numbers at the high school level as well said Preston. “High school is blooming,” said Preston. “Coach Campbell has added a second golf class during fifth period, allowing more students to play who may have not been able to play due to other extracurricular obligations taking place during the first period.” Preston also noted that golf courses limit how many students can practice on their course at time so this breaks up the times students can go practice, in turn, increasing the numbers of who can play.
The junior high golf team is primarily made up of young men, but the interest of young ladies in the sport is increasing. Coach Jarrett, who coaches the Lady Bulldog Golf Team at the high school is pleased to see the numbers increasing.
“Having a junior high program is very rare and the development those girls receive at this level benefits my high school program tremendously. As a coach I am always looking for girls that already have the basics down, and then I can improve on that,” said Jarrett. “I believe girl’s golf is a sport that is completely overlooked. Junior high girls want to do the big sports of volleyball and basketball, with their friends. This may be good for some, but not all of them. Golf provides a lifetime sport that can carry them into their futures. There are many scholarships that are not used in Women’s Golf, due to lack of participation. This means there are opportunities around the nation for girls to play college golf.”
While the participation increase in the junior high golf program has been exciting to Preston, watching the students have fun, meet new friends, and gain skills in a sport that can be played throughout one’s life is even better.
By Kristen Johnson