With the retirement of longtime and legendary head coach Ronnie Williams, the GHS golf program, known as one of the best in the state, is in the hands of new leadership this season.
Ronnie Sockey and Tyler Woods are splitting the duties formerly handled by Williams alone, with Sockey coaching the girls and Woods guiding the GHS boys. Sockey is also the head coach for Lady Bulldogs softball, while Woods is the head coach for boys varsity soccer.
Both coaches recently talked about their new roles, their players, and their hopes for the 2019 fall golf season, already underway.
Both men have several returning players from well-established programs, but neither has a superstar golfer such as the recently graduated Sydnie Gamble (2018) or Evan Griffith (2019), both of which earned state medalist honors and college scholarships during their high school careers.
Coach Sockey assisted Coach Williams the last two seasons when the latter had to sit out at times due to health issues. Fortunately, he was able to return for post season play in 2018.
“We definitely can’t replace the things he did for Greenwood and the kids,” said Sockey of Williams. “We’re just going to try to step in and keep the program going. It’s definitely been fun. It’s a lot more relaxing than softball and soccer. It’s a different kind of coaching.
“It’s good to have two guys out there,” added Sockey, referring to the addition of Coach Woods this season. “Trying to cover both boys and girls out on the course is impossible, but having two coaches out there is going to make a world of difference.”
The Lady Bulldogs finished third in the state last season after winning it all in 2017, and have the majority of the 2018 squad returning this season.
“We have most of the girls back,” said Sockey. “One of the girls (Jordan Lane) moved to Oklahoma, and we’re going to miss her. But we count three scores and we’ve got three players back from last [fall].
“Ella Austin is our senior and we’ve got two sophomores that really came on last year, Hallie Jones and Grace Woody. Olivia Walker is a junior that’s been playing since she was a freshman and she’s been coming on for us too. If she can get a little more consistent, she might be a scorer we can use sometimes.
“We don’t have an individual [star], but our top three [players] could be our #1 any day. They are shooting from 85 to the low 90s,” said the coach. “Our top four girls are probably set.
“We’ve also got two freshmen, Maleigha Carney and Jessica Williams. They’re both just learning. We’re getting them some practice time, hoping to get them in some home matches and get them some experience.”
“The girls should probably be in good shape to finish in the top three in conference,” said Sockey, with Little Rock Christian being their main competition. Greenwood will again host the league tournament at the Ben Geren course in Fort Smith.
Teaching golf will be a new experience for Coach Woods, who is starting his second year at Greenwood after moving from Beebe. “I’m a big fan of the game,” he said. “I think I’ve played about a thousand holes.
“But I’m loving it,” he added. “We’ve got big shoes to fill replacing Coach Williams, but I’m just going to do the best I can for the kids and learn as much as I can from Coach Sockey. Golf is such a mental game. But I’ve had a blast so far.”
As for his team’s prospects this season, Woods understands that it’s a team sport made up of individual players, and one of the state’s best graduated off his team last season.
“Apparently we lost one of the best players to ever come through Greenwood, Evan Griffith,” he said. “But [junior] Brady Fein has stepped up in that role and he’s going to be our #1 bag.
“[Junior] Ethan Clarke will be our #2 bag, and he’s come a long way. He and teammate Cade Shrum were out practicing almost every single day. They just love the game, which is awesome to see. They’ve played non-stop and it’s really paid off.
“Our #3 bag is Landon Tuck, he’s a senior, and our #4 bag is Hayden Weaver. He’s a junior and he’s very capable of shooting in the mid-to-low 80s. [Senior] Cade Shrum is our #5 bag and I’ve been very impressed by him, especially since he’s never really played much before.
“We’ve got 11 players altogether,” said Woods. They include senior Avery Cole, freshman Kyler Johnson, and sophomores Deacon Drennan, Jake Robbins, Jake Spoon, and Chris Daggs.
“But there are some guys pushing each other, which makes us have to play better. If the top five don’t play well and take it seriously, one of these other guys may come up and take a spot.
“It will be interesting to see how the year plays out. We’ve got to finish in the top three in conference.” Woods says that Little Rock Christian will likely be the league favorite.
Both men are looking forward to a season coaching on the links, and both plan to maintain and build upon the strong winning tradition of GHS golf, courtesy of Coach Ronnie Williams.