By David Droschak
West Davidson’s decision to field a women’s golf team four years ago couldn’t have come under more competitive circumstances.
The Dragons were not only starting a golf team from scratch but just happened to be in the Central Carolina Conference competing against 2-A powerhouse Salisbury, which had captured four straight state championships from 2011-2014.
“They were the gold standard,” said West Davidson women’s golf coach David Klinkoski. “Obviously, when we started we weren’t at that level; no one in the state was. They were winning state championships by 50 and 60 shots. I think that actually helped us being in the same conference as Salisbury because we got to see what it took to get to that level, the type of commitment, the type of kids that played year round. That helped us in the long run.”
It didn’t take Klinkoski, who also coaches the men’s team at the school outside of Lexington, long to field a competitive group, but even he couldn’t have dreamed of winning a 1A/2A state title by 60 shots in 2016 in the program’s infancy.
“Four years ago I gave up coaching women’s basketball and I had some kids come to me and say they wanted to start a women’s golf team,” he said. “I was already coaching the boys in the spring, so I said I would be happy to do it if they could get together a group of girls who were committed to play. And that’s exactly what they did.
“All the credit goes to the girls in the program,” Klinkoski added. “We were up by 28 shots after day one and we basically talked about it and said we wanted to continue on and play as well as we possibly could. Every day in the offseason when I was in the boys’ golf practice those girls were out there on the course, playing year round and practicing during the boys season. It goes to their work ethic.”
West Davidson ran away with the team competition at Foxfire Resort in late October, thanks in large part to Rachael Mast’s third place finish and Olivia Sharpe’s pair of sub-90 rounds. Mast shot 14-over, including a 76 on day one. Sharpe finished the tournament 26-over par, with a 10-over 82 on day two of the event. The Dragons were the only team to have two players both under 90 in each round.
Mast, one of two seniors on the team, plans to play college golf at UNC-Wilmington.
Ragan Dalton, the team’s other senior who helped start the program four years ago with teammate Mast and coach Klinkoski, tied for 26th as the Dragons beat Franklin Academy by 60 strokes.
“I can’t say enough about what they’ve meant to the program,” Klinkoski said of Mast and Dalton. “I’m very happy for them based on what has happened this year.”
Klinkoski will be heading into his 17th season as the men’s golf coach at the school, but has never finished higher than 4th in the state before his women’s team crown. He did coach 2009 individual 2-A champion Justin Clement.
Klinkoski has a humble golf background, having never played high school or college golf, let alone a foray into the professional ranks. He said he just grew up loving the game, which he picked up as a teen-ager.
“For me as a coach with the girls it’s making sure they understand their options out on the course,” he said. “But I trust the girls. I don’t know how many times this year, even in the state tournament, when I walked out on the course and said ‘OK you can do this or do that I trust you’ and I walked away. I honestly feel they are good enough and they are intelligent enough to make the right decisions for them and for our team.”
Klinkoski said Sapona Ridge Country Club, the school’s home course, was also a major part of the team’s success.
“When we get to practice on a first-rate facility every single day these are the results you get,” he said.
The team was honored at a recent football game, getting to walk onto the field and hold up the state championship hardware.
“The girls did something this year that 30 years from now they can walk back into the gym and look up at the banner and tell their kids I was a part of that,” Klinkoski said.