Nichols relies on old friend

Chalk one up for being resourceful.

Nine years ago when John Mike Nichols agreed to take over as head coach of the St. Marys High School softball program, he was tackling a brand new beast. As a starting point, he purchased a book entitled, “Softball for Dummies.” Two state trips later, that same book is in his possession.

Well, a return visit to Books-A-Million is in order now that Nichols has accepted another challenge as the St. Marys golf coach.

“This is something totally different that takes me out of my element and gives me a challenge,” Nichols said.

Golf isn’t completely foreign to Nichols. Both his father and brother are avid golfers. They also had a family farm which bordered St. Marys Golf Course.

“People would drive balls into the field, and as kids we would go around and collect buckets and buckets of golf balls,” Nichols said.

* Pounding the pavement: Paden City third-year golf coach Nathan Tallman is going beyond the call of duty and doing his best to establish a sense of pride for those representing the Wildcats on the links.

He is going door-to-door asking businesses if they would like to contribute towards the purchase of golf bags.

“I think we are the only team in the state that doesn’t have golf bags,” Tallman said. “I started a few days ago with the fundraising and so far it’s going well. It looks promising.”

Paden City is starting to turn the corner in terms of success. The Wildcats won five matches last year after being shut out the previous season. They also chopped 70 strokes off their regional score from a year ago.

Tallman remembers his first season when the roster consisted of a mere four individuals. This season, the program boasts 11 student-athletes.

“Numbers are up, which increases the competition level,” Tallman said. “We keep improving and that’s the goal. We’re nowhere near a Tyler Consolidated or Magnolia, but we want to get to that level.

“It’s been an amazing improvement, and I have to give credit to the parents and kids.”

* Middle school impact: Several schools are in the process of establishing a program at the middle school level and hoping to reap the benefits of creating interest in golf at an earlier age.

“I just got approval in May, which is something I’ve been trying to get into place for years,” Tyler Consolidated coach Joe Griffith said. “It all starts at the middle school.”

The presence of a middle school program has eventually worked wonders for the players in high school level at Ritchie County and Roane County, which have accounted for the past four Class AA titles.

“We have actually got the ball rolling at Ripley to get a middle school team started,” Ripley coach Kevin McClung said. “The plan is to hopefully get a team for next spring. There are 15 to 20 who want to play golf at that level. We just have to get it approved with the board.”

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