A new look for Lopez golf

By Gene Helfman

After decades under the careful guidance of Richard Tetu, the Lopez Lobos golf team welcomes a new coach, Bert Bates. Coach Bates, along with assistant coaches Rob Nou and Kit Ledbetter, have assumed the helm for spring 2024. Bates, a semi-retired expert in teaching computer programming, has been studying and applying sports skills acquisition coaching for several years and hopes to take that experience, combined with his love of golf—to mentor the Lobos team. Bates is not new to golf instruction, having taught members of the Lopez Island Golf Club for several years. But whereas golf club players are primarily hoping to improve their game, the high school team includes many who have never played before.

Bates hopes the students learn to love golf as their skills develop. Many are new to golf and will bring minimal skills. “What will make this rewarding will be watching them improve, watching them get past the frustrations of being terrible at something, to the point that the game just grabs them and they come to enjoy it.” Golf can be made complicated, but “if you pare it down to a small number of important skills, you can play good golf. It would be great if some make it to state, but that’s not my top priority.” Coach Nou echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the basics. “It’s not necessarily about being competitive. It’s more wanting the students to do well, to learn and improve first and foremost so they enjoy what they’re doing. And instilling the Lopez reputation for sportsmanship and being good citizens on the golf course.”

This year’s squad is made up of two dozen students, from grade eight on up. A few members who went to State last year have returned and will provide leadership. Their assistance, combined with the tremendous, enthusiastic support from the School and the Lopez Golf Club have smoothed Coach Bates’ path, allowing him to build on the strong program Richard Tetu created over the years. “We’ve got a great group of kids to work with,” Bates remarked. “It’s still early, but they’re really good at following instructions. They’re dedicated, and eager to learn. It will be a fun year.”