Golf back in fold at Hampton

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com
Wayne Ellis, a former Hampton student who enjoyed playing golf under Jerry White in 1989, has now taken matters into his own hands after an 11-year span of leaderless golfers passed at Hampton High School.
Ellis, a golf-lover himself, realized that a yearning to play golf existed in his school, and approached a student he noticed spending long hours teeing off at the Elizabethton Golf Course about starting a team.
"We've not had a team since 1992," Ellis said. "One of our players, Dustin Crumley - I saw him at the course a lot this summer and I asked him if he would be interested in playing on a team." He was, and the rest is history.
Ellis made an announcement at school, and was answered by twice as many students than he expected to respond to his call for golfers.
"I wanted four players, and I had eight sign up," Ellis said. Half of Coach Ellis' new golf team juggle two sports, playing football as well."
To Ellis' surprise and pleasure, all of the players owned their own set of clubs, despite the long absence of a Hampton golf team, which sealed the fact that a burning desire to play existed among several of the Hampton students.
The team practices three to four days a week, and many of the players practice on their own time during the weekends.
"Elizabethton Golf Course has been very nice to the high school players," said Ellis. From August 1 to October 1, members of the golf team are not charged to play nine holes after 3 p.m. during the week.
"A lot of my golfers play on weekends, and they pay to do it," Ellis said. Yet another example of the team's determination became apparent.
"They have a good work ethic," Ellis bragged. "I'm very pleased with their attitudes." The team is fairly evenly distributed according to class. Dustin Crumley, Jason Pierce, and Brandon McKinney are seniors, while Ben Harrison, Cody Walsh, and Zach Crabtree make up the team's juniors.
Jonathon Lyons and Adam Townsend are the team's freshman golfers, and though they aren't official team members yet, eighth-graders Caleb Smith and Lucas Andrews practice with the team in anticipation of their freshman year when they can compete in matches.
"Dustin is very competitive," Ellis said. "He played for years at Elizabethton (Golf Course) with his grandfather. He usually shoots in the low 40s and high 30s on nine holes. The others are just beginning. We're working on becoming bogey golfers."
This is the first year any of the golfers have had the opportunity to play on a team.
"It's an experience year, I like to call it," Ellis said. "I tell them to watch the other players when they play, and to learn from it."
The beginning team doesn't get discouraged at not finishing at the top in matches.
Ellis said, "Even though the other teams are above us right now, they look forward to future years and hope to get better in the off-season."
Coach Ellis said that golf isn't like football or baseball, which normally limits someone after they finish their education. As he knows, it's a sport that one can continue to play and enjoy for the rest of one's life.
"I played in '89 when Jerry White was coach. He got me hooked and we still play together, even now," Ellis said.
Ellis wants to keep the tradition going, trading in his former role as an aspiring golfer and stepping in to be the inspiring coach. "Basically, I want them to get hooked on golf," he said.
He wants to instill in his golfers the drive that will power them to become lifetime players, a task that will not be difficult with the eager team.
"All of the golfers are excited," Ellis said. "They've got the fever."
Besides the benefit of finding a sport that they will forever love, Ellis also keeps in mind that his golfers might benefit in other ways.
"Maybe some of the players will get scholarships," he says.