MORGANTOWN — I pulled up to the Mountain View golf course at Lakeview Golf Resort & Spa at 5 p.m. June 27 in a rush. I was on site for a feature piece covering the WVSSAC three-week summer practices for the University High golf team and was expecting the Hawks to finish their round about the time I pulled into the parking lot. I was worried I might hold up UHS coach Barry Kolar, who I was scheduled to interview.
My worrying ceased quite quickly as Kolar texted me that he was on the eighth green;
20 minutes later, he came rolling down the hill from the ninth in his cart as a summer rain shower picked up intensity.
It turned out he had hung back to play some holes with his younger golfers.
“During summer play and our team tryouts, I try to play a few holes with everyone, especially the younger ones,” Kolar said. “I need to teach them the sport.”
Kolar and I took a seat in the pro shop as he presented the challenges that lay before him in rebuilding a high school golf program — and why he enjoys the task.
The Hawks lost their top three golfers from last season’s team to graduation, and Kolar is finding a younger team provided him a new set of challenges in his second year at the helm of the program.
“We’re losing our top three, and that’s very hard to replace at this level. They were excellent players — they knew the game well and they had experience,” he said. “This year, I only have one or two with that experience.”
UHS returns just one senior to the fairways, and many of the players have little to no experience on a golf course. For Kolar, that changed his approach to the summer sessions.
“I’ve met with them so far just three times. We met twice during the first week, and I gave them some things to improve on over this summer,” he said. “Some of these kids have never picked up a club before. If I’m coaching golf, I don’t want to bring the players out and play nine holes the first time. I want to teach them things.”
Of course, starting with the fundamentals is never a bad thing, and in fact, that’s where the job gets to be fun for Kolar. He gets to introduce high school athletes to his favorite sport — one with which they may not have much exposure — and spend time shaping them into players.
“Golf is a game you can’t learn overnight. It takes time to develop these skills. Most of these kids get to a point where they can hit the ball far, and that’s all they can do,” he said.
As an athlete who dabbled in golf, I can attest. There was a point during my college years when all I needed was a 5 iron and an 8 iron to find my way within 10 yards of the hole. Of course, it never saved me from the inevitable three-to-five strokes I’d add with my wedge and putter.
Kolar, however, is interested in teaching his kids more.
“I want to teach them a short game,” he said. “I want them to learn how to putt and chip.”
Kolar still has flex days to use in July with his athletes. He’ll spend one of them taking the team to train with his brother, PGA certified pro Chris Kolar. He is always looking for ways to teach his players more about the sport.
“My expectations are always the same in that I want to see everyone improve at this game. It may not be enough to get to states, but my goal is to see improvement.”
He’s also using his summer sessions to instill his athletes with a sense of golf etiquette and a better understanding of the rules of golf. He hopes that these summer practices can be the start of turning a high school sport into a lifetime hobby for the youth of UHS.
“Most of these kids won’t be on the PGA tour someday,” he said. “But if these kids can maybe secure that big business deal on the course one day, or if I can just teach them this game and they enjoy it for years, maybe they’ll look back at their time on the high school golf team. I know I do.”