By Dan Woodlock
Times-Junction Sports Editor
There's a lot to be said about taking on anything that's in good standing and being able to hand it off in as good of, if not better, condition when you're done.
Such is the case with WHS golf coach Mark White, who just wrapped up his 20th and final season at the helm for a Crimson Flashes program that began and finished as one of the most respected teams in the Northern Ohio League during his tenure.
Willard captured four Northern Ohio League championships during White's coaching career, which represent all four titles in the program's history.
Serving as the district's Technology Coordinator, White began his teaching and coaching run at Willard in 1995. He started as a third grade teacher at Central, where he taught for five years and served as both the high school golf coach and as a seventh grade basketball coach, while finishing his Masters in Technology Instruction and Computer Integration.
He would become the computer teacher at the middle school and eventually stepped in his current position after the retirement of Barry Pfahl.
It took just two seasons for White and the Flashes golf team to make history, as the 1996 squad compiled a 12-2 league record and won their first NOL championship.
"The cupboard was definitely not bare when I got here," said White, who took the reigns to the program following former head coach Brian Bevier. "We had some decent players and we made a run for the title that first year. We fell short, but were very capable.
"It was a great feeling when it came together the next season," he added. "Willard hadn't won with some pretty good teams. But my kids put in a lot of work, and played a lot of LEJGA (Lake Erie Junior Golf Association) events in the summer."
His Flashes would add their second league championship in 2005 and then strung together the program's first back-to-back NOL titles in 2011 and 2012.
"Things are still a little surreal right now," said White. "I'm the type of person who doesn't really look at anything as being the end. I'm still heavily involved at the school and helping get things preparedfor the new building.Maybe at some point down the road, another coaching position may or may not open up that I might consider, but right now, it was just time.
"I have no regrets on my resignation from coaching," he continued. "When you do anything for 20 years, you tend to get accustomed to a routine, so it probably won't sink in until around August. But so many people were extremely kind in seeing me off this season. I am very appreciative of all the years I spent with great kids and great parents. It's not a sad time. It's just me turning the page."
Looking back on his coaching career, White noted that it's hard to narrow down his favorite nonchampionship memories, because there are many.
"Every group is so different," he said. "They all brought their own special qualities. You just enjoy the time you have to spend with them. You do all the camps and fundraisers. All the traveling with the kids to the matches. You take the kids out after matches and reminisce about the round.
"Some teams you grow a little closer to than others, but what's been outstanding is whether it's great times or difficult times, you grow to be a family. That makes things very real."
His teams annually held a special awards recognition night at the Willard Golf Club, which were especially pleasing for White, in that the parents and families could come together and celebrate the accomplishments and experiences of the kids from each season.
White was extremely thankful for the support of WGCManager, Bill Pfefferle, as well as to the many Club members whodonated their time, advice and even equipment to players throughout the years---taking a sincere vested interest in the program, but more importantly, the kids.
"We were fortunate to have people like Bill out at the course, who does a great job of keeping the course up," said White. "Until Coach (Corey) Chandler came on the past few seasons, I never had an assistant coach. Bill's kind of been my right-hand man for years. He's a guy that would do anything to help the kids out."
"He gets kids clubs at cost and has been willing to step in with the jayvee kids when I'm out on the road with the varsity," White continued. "We've averaged around 20 kids per season over my career and obviously, a lot of them don't travel on match nights. Bill has been there taking the lead in having them chipping, putting, working at the driving range and picking up balls."
While the status of filling the position remains to be seen, White noted that he's in support of Chandler, who has experienced the program inside and out as both a player and a coach.
"Corey is someone who wants to do the program proud and take it to the next level," said White. "He understands the game. He played for me and was a member of the 2005 championship team. He's coached our jayvees and knows what we want to accomplish."
White stated that he's not caught up in all of the numbers, in terms of career wins and similar coaching statistics.
"Maybe when I'm 80 or 90 I'll go back and dig up all of that stuff," he laughed. "I know we finished second quite a few times and even had some third place finishes in there. We were in the basement once, back when we did things backward and held the NOL Tournament at the beginning of the season. Moving it to the end was one change that I was glad to see go through, because you could struggle that day and get buried and then face the challenge of how to get your kids motivated to still play for something."
He did enjoy having success against schools coming from larger golf facilities.
"Over the years we'd play against a lot of teams that were used to playing more of the country club style of courses and some may have looked down on our little nine-hole course when they came here.
"But our kids never backed down and it just made it that much sweeter when we came together and took care of business at home and on the road," he added. "It just shows that it's not about where you come from, it's how much you're willing to work at the game."
White looks forward to having more time to play golf with his family.
"As a coach, your priority needs to be there for your kids, so sometimes that means you put your own game on the back burner," he said. "I look forward to having time to play more with my father, as well as my son, Ben, and daughter, Elli.
"With Ben competing with the varsity in a number of matches, it was nice to get to have him with me during my last season," he added. "Elli's a softball and basketball player, and I'm not sure if she'll be a soccer player or a golfer. But I look forward to working with her on the course."
While stepping down from the head coaching position is a step in a new direction for White, his heart and support will still be there for the Crimson
Flashes and their new coach.
"I'm sure I'll still stop in at the course," said White. "It's been a good run. I have no doubt it will still be good next year."