The Riverside High School golf team had a banner year despite being only 3 years old, with half of that spent shut down or with limited playing time because of COVID-19. The boys team were league champions plus a team advanced to the district competitions and one boy and one girl made it to state.
Coach Phil Stime is proud of his students’ achievements.
“I’m proud of them for how well they did, but also their drive,” he said.
Stime began coaching golf this school year and was notified of the position only one week before practices began.
“I didn’t have time to recruit people,” he said.
Stime teaches physical education at the middle and high schools in Riverside. He’s always loved golf and his family built a course near the school, though it shut down a few years ago.
“I’ve wanted this job forever,” he said.
For a while, it didn’t seem like it would happen since the high school didn’t even have a team.
“We had one a long time ago,” he said. “It started again about three years ago, but then we had COVID.”
When the previous coach stepped down, Stime applied and got the job.
“The coaching was easy and amazing, except for the weather,” he said. “We started out in the cafeteria the first week.”
With the Deer Park Golf Course closed, they moved to an empty field, taking care to avoid patches of snow. Even when the course opened, the weather was often cold, damp or rainy. But the students never complained, Stime said.
“Those kids, they showed up every day,” he said. “That’s why they got so much better.”
He coached 10 boys and three girls. Eight of the 10 boys participated in varsity matches this season, though sometimes they would play tournaments at which scores didn’t count.
“You can have six that participate in each tournament, at least that count for scoring,” Stime said.
Three students started the season having never played golf. One student who was new to the sport started out with scores around 125, but soon cut scores to the mid- to high 80s.
“They just got better and better and better,” he said. “They’re amazing kids. It was so enjoyable to go to practice.”
Stime said it’s not unusual for students who haven’t played before to sign up for golf.
“It’s pretty rare around here to have someone who’s played a lot,” he said.
Often it was student athletes that wanted something to keep them busy during their off season who would sign up. Stime said several of his players were also on the football team.
“I had the quarterback, the receiver and two of the offensive line,” he said. “If you have an athlete willing to listen, we can turn him into a golfer.”
The boys team went to the subdistrict competition and scores there determined which players advanced to districts. Six went to districts and five made it to the second round of competition. The sixth student missed advancing by one extra stroke on the last hole, Stime said.
“I think he’s still upset about it,” he said. “As a team, we got second in districts.”
Silas Ng, named the NEA League MVP, advanced to state. Of the three girls competing this year, Montana Wiltfong finished second in the NEA League and advanced to state.
Stime said other, more dominant schools typically win the league.
“To get a league championship, for our school, in anything is really big,” he said.
Stime is making plans for next year. More than half of his players graduated, so he plans to recruit. This year’s success is generating interest. He hopes to hold introductory camps for younger students so they’ll consider joining the team when they get to high school.
“We might have too many now, because people are seeing what we did,” he said. “I have a good start for next year.”