Sunday, April 21, 2013

Cheathon's Training Up Young Golfers

Cliff Cheathon loves the game of golf, but what makes him more exuberant is seeing young people play the game.

One can see Cheathon often manning the pro shop at Wildhawk Golf Club, but he seems to light up with a teen walks in asking for a tee time or to buy a bucket of balls for the driving range.

He knows the game needs more young Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus types, so when he spots a young person hitting a drive or practicing their putting he’s quick to ask what school they attend. Once he has that information he usually follows with this query: “Are you playing golf for your high school?”

Cheathon has spend hours with young people, the last few springs at Monterey Trail High School, coaching some of golf’s future players. 
Cliff Cheathon, EGHS  Golf Coach

He’s proud of the work he’s done at Wildhawk with recent local high school golfers such as James Reede from Monterey Trail and Chris McKnight from Cosumnes Oaks. They are now playing golf collegiately.

“As a teaching pro here at Wildhawk I can help them get access, give them some lessons through the year and that will help them get ahead because they get to play more and more,” Cheathon said.

His advice for the average high schooler is pretty simple: “After you’re done with your homework, get out here hit about a hundred balls on the range, get in a couple holes, but at least get in your putting and your ball striking.”

Cheathon says he likes to not only help the young men on the driving range, but also take them out on the course and teach them how to hit in special situations.

“I also work on their on-course attitudes which help to mature those young men,” he added.

When Elk Grove High School’s golf coach Bob Levine took over the reigns as the athletic director earlier this school year, Levine needed someone to step in and help him with the program, so he tabbed Cheathon as his replacement. He knew Cheathon would carry on the golf program in a very credible way, so the decision was easy.

Cheathon has his Herd golfers with him at Wildhawk just about every day after school honing their skills.

“If they give me at least three or four days a week after school they’ll see their scores improve over the weeks,” he said. “it does take some time, but it does come.”

Now halfway through the Delta Valley Conference championships, Cheathon’s golfers find themselves in third place in the team standings, behind perennial golf power Davis and second-place Franklin.  The Wildcat golfers this season are Eric Tam, Nathan Rimmer, Michael Tokunaga, Alex Dunning, Matt Beem, and Jacob Helmich

Monday, the third round of the 72-hole DVC championship was played at Haggin Oaks. Going into that round Davis had a 33-shot margin over Franklin with Elk Grove 31 strokes behind the Wildcats.

Cheathon says his top three golfers -  Keaton Swan, Lane Walters and Shawn O’Sullivan - haven’t really played very well in the first two rounds.

“I don’t think they are playing up to their full potential, but they are playing pretty good,” Cheathon said.

The fourth and final 18-hole round will be next Tuesday at the Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton.

Following the DVC tournament, the Herd golfers will be preparing for the Division I North Tournament. That will be at Wildhorse Golf Club in Davis on May 6. All the golfers from the DVC, the Monticello Empire League, the Delta River League and the Sierra Foothill League will be competing in an 18-hole stroke play setup. Each school will play six golfers, but count the top five scores.

The top four teams, plus the top six individual golfers, not a part of those teams, will advance to the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters’ Tournament May 13 at the Reserve. The Masters will also be an 18-hole stroke play tournament.

The top three teams at the Masters, plus the top four individuals who are not a part of those teams, advance to the NorCal Regional Tournament. That will be played May 20 at the Diablo Grande Golf and Country Club in Patterson.

The CIF State Golf Championships is June 5 at Quail Lodge Golf Club in Carmel.

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