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Dartmouth notebook: Offensive lineman a help with HS golf team

  • John Paul Flores

  • Mark Egner

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2020 10:22:02 PM
Modified: 9/26/2020 10:22:00 PM

HANOVER — John Paul Flores enjoys playing a round of golf whenever he can. He says it’s the sport that he’ll play until the day he dies.

Yet he wasn’t expecting to refine his short game this fall, and definitely not helping high schoolers with their own skills.

Flores — who is a junior left tackle for the Dartmouth football team — has had to adapt as the Ivy League canceled all fall sports earlier this past summer due to COVID-19 concerns.

Back in Hanover without a football season, Flores was approached by Integrare campus minister Kent Dahlberg to help coach the Mid Vermont Christian golf team.

Flores is a member of Integrare’s athletic bible studies group and knows Dahlberg through his older brother Jacob, who was a center for the Big Green and spent some time with the Green Bay Packers.

“Helping kids through the struggles of golf (has been fulfilling),” Flores said last week in a phone interview. “Sometimes you get in the bunker or hit a bad shot, and you have to get yourself back up and refocus to get out of the bunker. It’s really a microcosm of life.”

The Eagles only have three players on their roster and aren’t playing a full match schedule, but Dahlberg and Flores have been focusing on the basics. The team has been holding two practices a week at The Quechee Club.

Along with helping coach, the experience has been a positive for Flores since he’s able to get his mind off school and get off campus, two things for which football used to be a substitute come fall. The outdoors is also something that drew him to Hanover, so exploring more of the Upper Valley has been a positive.

Golf is a sport that Flores has picked up recently thanks to summers spent caddying at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, close to his hometown of Arlington, Texas, with his younger brother Michael, who is sophomore at Dartmouth and an offensive lineman. As part of the gig, Flores is able to play the course on Mondays.

“He’s just a great presence,” said Dahlberg, the 15th-year coach of the Eagles. “He has a real heart for that age group; the kids look up to him. I always tell him if you’re busy or have other things to do, don’t feel like you have to come every time. And he’s always saying, ‘I want to be there.’

“The other fun thing about John Paul is he’s fairly young as a golfer himself. He hits the ball well, but he’s a bit wild. The ball can go anywhere sometimes. He’s very competitive and capable.”

Flores hopes to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and get a shot in the NFL. He’s doubtful the Ancient Eight will play football in the spring, but the Big Green will start weightlifting this week as Dartmouth athletics move to its first phase out of quarantine. And Flores, who was looking for to build on his breakout sophomore season, will continue to help out with the MVCS golf team in the meantime.

Meeting his team: First-year field hockey coach Mark Egner met most of his team in person for the first time this week while volunteering at a COVID-19 testing site on Dartmouth’s campus.

Egner was introduced as the fifth coach in program history in February and moved into his office on March 1. By March 10, he was sitting in meetings about athletics shutting down due to the coronavirus.

“I remember sitting in a staff meeting, and Harry Sheehy, the Dartmouth athletic director, saying in 30-something years of working in athletic administration, this is one of the biggest things that had ever happened,” Egner recalled. “And I remember turning to someone and saying, ‘This is my 10th day as a head coach.’ ”

Egner, originally from Ireland, has had to introduce how he wants to play the game via Zoom meeting. He’s hasn’t had a practice. He hasn’t held an in-person team meeting. He hasn’t been able to take much stock in where he needs to focus recruiting.

Everything that was taken for granted before the pandemic now needs an alternative.

“We’ve probably worked as hard as we would have if we were in person,” said Egner, who takes over a program that last won an Ivy League title in 1988 and is 28-57 over the last five seasons. “Every week we had tactical video check-ins, where I would prepare a session in advance, so girls were watching clips of international hockey, talking about how that was going to tie in how we were going to play.

“And then we would show them film of their old games. And we would tell them to walk through situations and what they would do now, knowing how Mark wants us to play. What would we do differently in this clip.”

That’s how he taught his team how to play to his style. He also set up meetings where players such as Soledad García (former Argentine national team player) and Amanda Magadan (United States national team player) talked about lessons from their careers.

Egner’s confident that the conversations and time spent on Zoom will pay dividends whenever the Big Green take the field.

Unknown future: On Sept. 16, the NCAA Division I Council approved moving the first contest date in Division I men’s and women’s basketball to Nov. 25 for the 2020-21 season. Since then, preparation for the college basketball season has started across the country, and it’s expected teams will play.

What that means for the Ivy League is unknown. The Ancient Eight had announced that all sports were on pause until at least Jan. 1.

But with the recent news from the NCAA, Big Green men’s coach Dave McLaughlin said he expects an update from the conference sometime in mid-October. Still, Dartmouth hasn’t canceled its non-conference games slated in December.

“It would be (disappointing),” McLaughlin said of a situation where basketball is played and the Ivies don’t join. “It’s hard to say: Is it likely that every other Division I league plays and not the Ivy League? I think that’s very unlikely. I think everything is based on the data on hand.”

A story in the Yale Daily News earlier this month said that at least seven of 12 returners for the Bulldogs were taking fall-term leaves. McLaughlin said none of his players have shown interest of sitting out the upcoming season, and anyone in a fall-term internship would be back for winter term and a possible season.

Notes: McLaughlin’s daughter, Sydney, is one of two freshmen on the Hanover High girls soccer team. … Similar to football, both field hockey and men’s basketball will start weight training this week. … When the Washington Football Team and the Cleveland Browns hit the gridiron on Sunday, they will play in the first NFL regular-season game in which a female coach will be on both sidelines as a female officiates the contest. It just so happens that both coaches — Cleveland’s Callie Brownson and Washington’s Jennifer King — got their first full-time coaching experience at Dartmouth under Buddy Teevens.

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.

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