Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Any Way You Slice It, Golf Big at Baldwin

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Any Way You Slice It, Golf Big at Baldwin

Article excerpt

After nine years, golf is back at Baldwin High School.

Everyone agrees the team, which drew so much student interest that cuts had to be made, is off to a great start. The team was 3-1 entering the week.

Not everyone agrees, however, on why.

The program's resurgence comes at a time when the PGA Tour's popularity and commitment to developing youth golf is greater than ever. Then, there is the effect of Tiger Woods, who has made golf cool to teenagers.

However, the role of families can't be underestimated. They have the largest influence on youth becoming interested in the game, said Cecilia Jackson, director of athletics for the Florida High School Activities Association.

So what revived golf at Baldwin? The answer depends upon whom is asked.

"It's Tiger-mania," Baldwin assistant coach Eddie Pennington said.

"I don't think anyone came out of the woodwork because of the Tiger Woods phenomenon," said Greg Olafson, who coached Baldwin's golf team before it shut down.

All of Baldwin's golfers played before Tiger's rise, and most were introduced to the game by their families.

Sophomore Drew Craft started when he was 10, but Craft said watching Woods prompted him to play for Baldwin.

"He's awesome," said Craft of Woods. "Some of the shots he can make -- it's incredible."

Baldwin, Jackson and Ribault are the three public high schools in Duval County that did not have golf teams during the past five years, according to the FHSAA. Jackson Athletic Director Jackie Simmons said interest in golf at his school has him scrambling to assemble a team for next year.

Simmons said five students are on a club team right now, and Woods' influence cannot be overlooked.

"They're seeing Tiger Woods and David Duval -- a local guy -- and they say, 'This looks like fun,' " Simmons said.

Ribault Athletic Director Al Austin cannot remember the last time the school had a golf team. Baldwin had one until nine years ago when transportation headaches and a crowded practice course -- not a lack of interest -- caused the school to stop fielding the team. …

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