- November 20, 2014
WINTER GARDEN — Sitting in his office on the campus of West Orange High School, first-year coach Scott Baker doesn’t seem overly concerned with any expectations that might be attributed to his program.
Neither, he said, are the five golfers who will represent the Warriors at the FHSAA Golf Finals Nov. 4 to 5, in Tavares.
Sure, West Orange has been to the state finals in each of the past three seasons, and, with four experienced seniors anchoring its lineup, figures to be a contender for the top spot after placing sixth in the state in 2013 and 2012.
But, the way Baker sees it — and the way he has encouraged his team to see it — winning the state championship isn’t within their control. But, their next shot — that’s a different story.
“We play the shot that is in front of us, and we play it the way that that shot needs to be played,” Baker said of the Warriors’ philosophy. “There are no expectations about winning a state championship — it’s only about that shot and we compartmentalize all the time.
“So, we don’t even worry about those expectations because those have nothing to do with (the moment) and they’re out of our control,” he said.
This mentality has been especially effective for a group of very talented, veteran golfers. West Orange’s boys team, which won the regional tournament by 11 strokes, doesn’t practice as all the players have busy schedules and work with private trainers.
Rather, Baker has focused mostly on helping his athletes with their mental approach to pair with the talent they already have. It has been particularly effective with a player such as Kyler Tate, committed to play collegiately at the University of Florida.
“The biggest thing to try and teach them, and Kyler has really come a long way on this, is that a good score is in the future — you have no control over what happens on hole 18 when you’re on hole one,” Baker said. “(Tate’s) decision-making has just been phenomenal — and I’m talking about off the course, also.”
Tate, along with seniors William Wrigley, R.J. Whitener and Jeff Victor, and junior Trevor Grant, have displayed maturity and leadership during a season that certainly could have been rockier given the coaching change in the offseason.
The Warriors have also received leadership from a golfer who won’t be playing in Tavares. Senior Harrison Chane missed a portion of the season because of an injury and was unable to qualify for the postseason because of it. Nevertheless, the senior is a captain for Baker’s program and an important part of what West Orange hopes to accomplish.
“(Chane’s) leadership, knowing that he wasn’t even going to go to the districts, regionals or state finals, has been phenomenal,” Baker said. “Somebody is always a leader. It just changes and all depends on the day.”
For a team full of talented golfers that has had high expectations all season, the Warriors have been able to keep perspective and — for the seniors who are playing their final season as prep competitors — enjoy the ride, too.
“One of the parents happened to email the principal and the athletic director about how much the kids enjoy each other this year and how much fun they have on the course,” Baker said. “The fun comes from living in the moment and taking advantage of what’s in front of you at the time.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].