By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
When James C. Bailey first hired Dan York in the mid-’80s, the former Wallace State president and athletic director needed a golf coach at the last minute and asked York if he could do the job on a part-time basis to keep the program going.
The rest, as they say, is history.
“I said, ‘Sure, I’ll do it a year or two.’ Twenty-seven years later, I’m still going and now he’s retired,” York said with a laugh. “But it’s been a blessing. It’s been a wonderful thing for me. I certainly enjoy working with these young men.”
The young men York is working with this year are set to start their season at the Wallace State Invitational on Monday and Tuesday. The annual event will consist of 54 holes — two rounds the first day and one the second — at the Cullman Golf Course.
Of the 12 teams in the kickoff classic — the Lions will field an ‘A’ and ‘B’ squad — seven qualified for the NJCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship this past May in Lubbock, Texas, including defending-champion and preseason No. 1 Central Alabama Community College. Wallace State, coming off a seventh-place finish on the national stage, was No. 8 in the same preseason poll.
“I can’t remember how long it’s been since we’ve had this quality of a field playing in our tournament,” York said. “We’ve got quite a bit of talent coming in to play. It should be exciting.”
As far as his golfers are concerned, York is confident the Lions will “be very competitive” — and for good reason.
Norway’s Aksel Olsen is back for his sophomore campaign after securing the program’s very first individual national championship and becoming Wallace State’s 14th NJCAA All-American while competing in Lubbock. As the low-medalist, he received the Arnold Palmer Award, was named MVP and was an obvious inclusion on the All-Freshman Team.
The Lions had four freshmen who played at the national tournament in the spring, and York said three of them — Olsen, Chris Atchley and Patrick Twesme — will start their sophomore seasons on the school’s ‘A’ team. Cooper Brown, a walk-on from Canada who won the local Cullman County Championship this summer, and Will McDowell, round out Wallace State’s top five. Brown and McDowell are both freshman.
While Atchley and Twesme hail from Huntsville and Florence, respectively, McDowell is coming to the Lions from a bit farther north after enjoying a successful prep career at Houston County High in Erin, Tenn.
Atchley’s low-medalist performance at the 2013 ACCC/Region 22 Tournament led Wallace State to a runner-up finish behind Central Alabama. The Lions haven’t won a state or region title since capping off a four-peat from 2001-04.
“They’re excited. I just hope my freshmen aren’t too excited,” York said. “But I do have good sophomore leadership this year. Everything has gone real smoothly. I have nine players on the team, and they’re just good, young men. I think they’ll be prepared and ready to play.
“Beating Central Alabama is never an easy task. They’ll be hard to beat, but I think we have the talent that if we play well, we’ll have the opportunity to beat them.”
First-round tee times are scheduled to start at 7 a.m. Monday and continue until 10:10 a.m. York expects the second round to wrap up around 7 p.m. Tuesday’s final 18 holes will get going at 8 a.m. with a shotgun start.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.