A Pro With the Juniors
Newport Coach Connects With Young Golfers
Members of the Newport High golf team watch a rolling putt by Spencer Coronis, second from right, during a Friday practice at the Newport Golf Club. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Vince Molesky, head pro at the Newport Golf Club and coach of the Newport High golf team, chats with senior Andre Kepler during Friday afternoon's practice at the club. Valley News- Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Newport High freshman Cameron Gebo watches one of his shots during Friday's practice at the Newport Golf Club. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Newport — Newport High golf coach Vince Molesky is hungry for a state championship. His kids are, too. Until such time as the Tigers claim one, however, he has something else to hold them over.
If a golf professional’s job is to help grow the game, then Molesky — the seven-year-pro at Newport Golf Club — has been doing his job well. He particularly dives into junior golf, taking kids 9 or 10 years of age, starting them with the basics and trying to make the sport fun for them.
Newport High’s golf coach of seven years as well, Molesky is seeing youngsters he used to teach turning into Newport’s most competitive high school team in a decade. The key? Give them an incentive when they compete.
“The first couple of weeks, I’ll get them putting and chipping, and that saves a lot of strokes,” Molesky described on Friday morning of his typical junior program approach. “When I take them to play the course, or a few holes, I’ll throw in that if the team pars a hole, I’ll give them a hot dog so, at the end of the day, they’ll really try. It’s pretty fun.”
The core of this year’s Newport roster — seniors Andre Kepler, Cale Manseau and Matt Bocko, along with junior Spencer Coronis — has been with Molesky for the length of his tenure, some starting in the pro’s junior clinics or, in Manseau’s case, helping with them. Newport took second at last year’s NHIAA Division IV state championship, trailing undefeated champion Derryfield by 14 strokes to match the best team finish in program history. Kepler and Manseau finished 4-5 in the 36-hole individual final, for which Bocko also qualified.
“He’s a really nice guy, very polite,” Manseasu said of Molesky. “He’s nice with the kids that he teaches. He has a funny sense of humor, and that helps with the parents. Overall, he’s a really good teacher, and he’s taught me a lot. If not for him, I wouldn’t be playing golf today.”
The golf-pro-as-golf-coach is a rarity in New Hampshire, even more so at the small-school level. Molesky guessed that he may be the only person to hold both positions in D-IV, and it’s an arrangement that works.
The youth clinics, which are free of charge, run through the summer and draw anywhere from two dozen to 40 youngsters, Molesky said. He’ll start with basic skills, gradually working the kids to play some of the holes closer to the course’s clubhouse.
“I’m not great with kids, for one thing; they scare me to death,” Molesky joked. “I mostly just wanted them to have some fun. I’d always start with putting, then have some sort of contest. Divide them into teams, do a scramble with some putting and chipping, then after that play a few holes. I’d eventually have 16-20 kids running around, with parents helping.”
Some of those young’uns kept coming back. The well-timed Hebrew Nationals helped.
“They love it,” Manseau said. “Sometimes that’s the only thing they look forward to.”
In addition to the lessons of grip, stance and strategy, Molesky instills the lessons of good sportsmanship that are the foundation of the game’s charm.
“They’re the future of the game, the future of our membership here,” he explained. “It’s a lifetime sport, but you have to get them interested early, especially if they can understand the game and their swings and how they can get better. They can always improve themselves.
“It’s a gentleman’s game; I say that the first day of practice. You’ve got to respect your opponents, act like gentleman. Use the ‘F’ word, you won’t play. Throw your clubs, you won’t play, You have to teach them that early.”
Past Molesky junior initiatives have included the Newport Junior Classic, a golf tournament that used to give college scholarship money to its winners. While that event has died off, the work Molesky put into it and others resulted in recognition last year from the PGA of America’s New Hampshire chapter, which gave him its Junior Golf Leader Award.
“I think that’s a huge accomplishment for Vince,” Manseau said. “He can teach kids how to play the game, and they love to come back.”
The clinics work out nicely for Molesky, whose course is all of 10 minutes from the high school and less to Newport’s elementary school. They’ve also proved popular in Sunapee, whose high school team is also populated with Molesky graduates.
Kepler, Bocko and Coronis have been working with the Newport pro for his full seven summers; Manseau picked up the game quickly after starting it eighth grade. They’re now in position for what Molesky hopes will be a special campaign.
Last October’s near-miss — Newport’s first since 2004, the year the Tigers also produced the last of three straight Class M-S individual championships — has this year’s team looking forward to this season, which starts at Franklin’s Mojolaki Country Club on Sept. 4. D-IV schools don’t have to field as large a match roster as those of higher divisions, so a roster with four or five consistent scorers stands a good chance of being competitive come the state meet in October.
“The one thing is they’re really good kids anyway, a real pleasure to coach, ” Molesky said. “Even in the kids’ clinics, they were fun to be with. There are no cut-ups; they’ve wanted to learn and they enjoy playing. They have continued that. It would be nice to see them get rewarded and win a state title.”
Until that moment, don’t expect the Tigers to be hot doggin’ it one bit.
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3226.