High school golf coaches do their part to grow the game
- By Jeff Gilbert (@jw_gilbert)
Southeastern boys
Head coach: Vince Banion, 13th season 
Successes: Advanced to 2015 Division III state tournament. Eight straight district appearances through 2021.

1748-LFinding enough players to fill out a varsity team is difficult at small schools like Southeastern. Rarely do teams in the Ohio Heritage Conference have enough golfers to field a JV team. And if they do it’s difficult to get matches for them.

Banion dealt with that issue when he took over at Southeastern in 2011 even though it’s his alma mater and he was living in South Charleston. Building a program was even more difficult because he taught at Northridge Middle School in the Northeastern district. In 2014, however, he got a teaching job at Southeastern and that changed everything.

“It's important because I get to see the kids every day,” he said. “When it comes to trying to get kids to play, it's a whole lot easier to recruit kids from within the school if you're there.

“I can go up to a kid and I can make a sales pitch and say, 'Golf is a sport that you can play the rest of your life. If you're not doing anything anyway, why don't you come out and try it and see how it goes.’”

That approach has worked enough to allow Banion to have teams consistently in the hunt for league titles and to make a habit of advancing from the sectional tournament to the district tournament.

Banion invites them to non-mandatory summer practices. His hope that some will like the game and want to work to improve has paid off.

“I've been fortunate over the last eight or nine years to have guys that want to be out here, that come out and practice on their own time in addition to practicing with us,” he said. “And it helps having Locust Hills close by. They’ve got a home course in their backyard.”

Banion remembers having only five players his first year. Since then the program has averaged between eight and 10 players with a couple dips to seven.

“Usually when they come to me, they haven't played pretty much ever,” he said. “I will occasionally get a kid that's played in the junior league out here in the summer just for a year or two. But most of the time they're brand-new golfers when they come to me, which is a nice adventure. I get to teach them a new game and so that's kind of fun. And I get to see them progress from the beginning to the end.”   
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