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Men's golf has eye on success

Sept. 11, 2003

By Marion Hixon, reporter

The first few weeks of school meant more than new classes and old friends for the 11 members of the men's golf team. They have been busy practicing at Bear Ridge Golf Course in Waco with a new head coach and a refreshed outlook on the game.

Coach Greg Priest has led Tyler Junior College to the National Championships and assisted coach John Fields to lead the University of Texas to back-to-back Big 12 Championships.

Priest has worked as a head coach at Sam Houston State University and Tyler Junior College and, more recently, as an assistant coach for the Longhorns.

As Priest unwinds in his office at Bear Ridge, players duck their heads in to casually mention details of practice. A relaxed atmosphere surrounds the team and much of it is attributed to Priest's sense of humor. He said that his sarcasm can break the ice when in tough situations.

He is a man who enjoys watching the effortless game of Masters winner Fred Couples and admires the work of coaches such as Mike Holder at Oklahoma State University.

'He's the ultimate coach as far as having his guys prepared,' Priest said of Holder. 'He's won a lot of national championships, and he's going to do what it takes to have his guys prepared to win.'

One major concern for any collegiate coach is the priorities of student athletes. Members of the team are put under the stress of traveling across the country while completing schoolwork and succeeding in classes.

'It's not easy because we miss 15 to 18 days of class because of traveling and tournaments,' Will McDonald, a Birmingham, Ala., junior, said. 'But thankfully, our advisers get us good teachers that are understanding about [our schoolwork] and help us stay ahead.'

Mike Haddock, a San Antonio freshman, also said that classes have been demanding.

'Juggling schoolwork was a struggle at first, but it's been getting better,' Haddock said. 'I really love being on the team. When I was looking at the school, I knew it was the best place for me to be.'

There seems to be a mutual respect among Priest and the players, which shows their strong appreciation for each other. The team has formed a tight bond throughout the past few weeks.

'Usually golfers are very close ... we all hang out together and have similar interests,' McDonald said.

Priest said that, although there is much work to be done, he is impressed with the skills of the players and with their talent.

'A huge advantage for us already this year is our coach. He's done more than we can say,' McDonald said. 'He's created a very stress-free environment for us and he's a real asset to [Baylor golf].'

Baylor will begin competition this weekend at the William H. Tucker tournament in Albuquerque, N.M. McDonald, Will Doughtie, Ryan Baca, Jon Antunes and Jeremy Frye will be competing.

Priest said that this, along with the Morris Williams Intercollegiate and the Big 12 tournament, will be the most significant this year.

'All tournaments are used as building blocks and warm-ups to get ready for conference, regionals and nationals,' Priest said.