A half-dozen years ago, Ron Whitmore approached Kevin Snider about taking over as Young’s boys golf coach.
It wasn’t an easy sell.
“It’s not something I wanted to do,” said Snider, who was part of the Dolphins’ boys basketball coaching staff. “I told him, ‘I don’t know enough about golf to know how to coach it.’”
But Whitmore persisted, because he could see Snider knew plenty about coaching, period.
Fast forward till now and the Dolphins are one of the top teams in the state, hoping to make history at Monday’s Class 3A New Trier Sectional.
No Public League team has played in the state tournament since the Chicago Public Schools lost their automatic berth in 2002. But Young shot a 309 to win the St. Ignatius Regional on Tuesday and already this season has gone toe-to-toe with traditional powers Loyola (losing by five shots) and Evanston (losing by two).
The Dolphins also have an experienced lineup — five of its six starters are seniors — led by one of the state’s top individuals, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville recruit Conor Dore.
Dore has two top-10 finishes in three trips to state as an individual, and he also has some big dreams.
“I’d like to think we go into every tournament expecting we can win it.” Dore said. “Our goal all season has been to get downstate and compete for a title.”
That’s the same bar Snider and the rest of the Young basketball coaches have set for that nationally prominent program. And it’s the same mindset Snider has brought to the golf team.
“We’ve definitely been treating it like a sport,” Dore said, emphasizing the last word.
And a serious sport, at that: Young’s golfers lift weights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s just one example of the high standards Snider holds his athletes to.
At one tournament, Dore became frustrated and threw a club. That was the end of his day, because Snider withdrew him from the meet on the spot.
“I walked up to him and and I said, ‘You know you’re done,’” Snider said. “He said, ‘Yeah, Coach, I do.’”
Dore had no quarrel with how the situation was handled. “Everyone is supposed to act respectful,” he said. “I didn’t and I paid the price.”
Respecting the game is a touchstone for Snider, whose own introduction to golf came more than 40 years ago when his aunt took him out to Columbus Park for a round. He still recalls his score for nine holes: 109.
“I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “But it was fun to me.”
Now 55, Snider has continued to play and figures he averages in the mid-90s for 18 holes these days. But as he told Whitmore — whose son Omari was the star of Snider’s first team and now plays at Florida A&M — he had something of a learning curve to climb when he became Young’s coach.
“I remember my very first tournament,” Snider said. “Me not knowing there’s a dress code. … We looked like the Bad News Bears. I said to one of my parents, ‘This will never happen again.’”
Now the Dolphins look good and play better, with seniors Will Arndt, Adam Shaw, Mac Carroll and Mike Owens joining Dore and sophomore Marcellus Dillard in.
It’s a tribute to Snider’s hard work, according to Dore.
“I think what he should be known for is the level of excellence he brings to any program he’s a part of,” Dore said. “We’re trying to be the best golf team in the state.”