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Rumblings begin to bring golf back to Bremerton High School
Tommy Hanberg’s schedule overflows with homework assignments and sports practices, most of the year anyway.
From September to November, the Bremerton High School senior juggles football with his duties as class president. During the winter, the multi-sport athlete wrestles. His favorite sport, however, is golf.
“I don’t really know what to do with myself in the springtime any more,” Hanberg said. “Golf is my sport and they took it away. It’s terrible.”
The Bremerton golf program was eliminated in a move to cut costs following the 2008 season, leaving Hanberg and others in the sand.
Now, husband and wife Scott and Ivaly Alexander want to see golf return to Bremerton, and the duo is willing to do the legwork to make it happen.
“We just have a big interest in doing what we can do to bring it back,” said Scott Alexander, the director of golf at Gold Mountain Golf Complex in Bremerton. “It doesn’t seem right that Bremerton doesn’t have a team.”
Since the Bremerton School District is cash-strapped, the only way to get golf back to the high school is for money to come in from an outside source.
Exactly how that will happen is unclear, but Alexander said he could host an event at Gold Mountain to generate at least some of the money.
Each September, Gold Mountain hosts the “Dave Williams 2-Person Best Ball” tournament, which is named after longtime Bremerton golf coach Dave Wiliams. The popular event attracts players from all across the state.
It would be feasible, Alexander said, to incorporate something into that event to raise money for the high school program.
Gold Mountain, widely considered the county’s premier golf destination, was Bremerton’s home course when it had a golf program.
The school district paid $200 each spring to use the course, covering fees of $100 apiece for the boys and girls teams. That was a modest fee considering it costs anywhere from $24 to $30 for non-member adults to play a round of 18 holes at Gold Mountain.
The bulk of the costs to keep golf going at Bremerton went to coaches stipends and transportation.
Bremerton High School Athletic Director George Duarte said the stipend for head golf coaches ranged from $3,200 to $3,600 per season, per coach. He estimated transportation costs — getting to and from regular-season matches — cost between $1,500 and $2,000 each season.
In the event a team advanced to the postseason, it cost an additional $300 or $400 to cover transportation and compensate for the extra time put it by coaches, he said.
The golf program cost the district about $7,500 a year, according to numbers provided by Duarte.
“It’s a nice little chunk,” he said.
Golfers were responsible for getting themselves to and from practice, and they also were required to supply their own clubs.
Duarte said for those reasons, in part, it was a struggle to fill the teams. The boys team had eight roster positions and the girls team six.
“With our community and our demographics, there are some kids that really love the sport. But at the time, not enough to really hold onto it,” Duarte said. “If we had a large number, it wouldn’t have been cut. I would have looked elsewhere. But the numbers were really low.”
Chuck Huhta, who coached the boys team for 20 seasons and works part-time at Gold Mountain, said transportation “may have been an issue for some.”
But he offered rides to players who didn’t have a car or a driver’s license, and those same players often carpooled with upperclassmen. Hanberg did the same.
Hanberg has four sets of clubs and said he was willing to lend them out to players who needed them. Golf even contributed to Hanberg landing a job at Gold Mountain, where he became a busboy in the restaurant.
“I was at the course all the time, so I got the job,” he said.
The number of students who turned out for golf began to dip after Huhta retired from his teaching position at the junior high in 2003.
Many of the golfers who ended up on the high school team were recruited by Huhta, who was able to promote the program because he was in the hallways with students. Huhta’s wife, Ursula, who taught physical education at the junior high, also encouraged students to pursue golf.
Chuck Huhta estimated about 15 boys turned out for the team on average before 2003, but that number dropped to about seven or eight after 2003.
Duarte became athletic director in 2005, during the downswing.
“At that time, a couple years back, we didn’t have a whole lot of interest,” Duarte said. “Unfortunately since I’ve been here, those numbers have not been up.”
Now Bremerton is the only high school of the nine in the county without a golf team.
“It’s crazy that a school that size doesn’t have golf,” Chuck Huhta said. “In other words, go for it.”
For players such as Hanberg, the absence of the golf program means a sports-free spring unless they participate in a different sport. The school offers track and field, boys soccer, girls tennis, baseball and fastpitch during the last sports season of the school year.
“I feel like going to Bremerton, I’ve lost opportunities because of the way it’s run,” Hanberg said. “I know there were some underclassmen who were looking to play golf and now they are unable to.”
Duarte, however, said if the money came in — and was available every year to cover the costs of the golf program — then the sport could return.
“Realistically, if the parents would come to me before the year is out, to say they got a substantial amount, ‘Here’s some money, we want to donate to the golf program,’ and everything is legit, we can get it in next year,” he said.