When West Forsyth boys golf coach Chris Roy scheduled the Wolverines to play in the Packer Invitational in Moultrie, Ga., this past March, he was thinking of the big picture for his team’s season. He knew the invitational was going to be held on the same course as the Class AAAAAA championship tournament in May. It was, in short, a scouting mission.
“My mindset, and what I tried to tell the guys, was we wanted to try to win the tournament in May,” Roy said.
West ended up winning the one in March anyways.
For a once-anonymous program, it became just another sign of its rise to relevance, though there would be more during the 2014-15 season. West won its first Forsyth County Championship, defeating eventual-state champion Lambert. Back in Moultrie in May, the Wolverines finished fourth at the AAAAAA tournament, behind only Lambert, Peachtree Ridge (2013 state champion) and Mill Creek (perennial state contender). Senior Robert Shaw and junior Drew Ridings were selected to the all-state team in AAAAAA. Shaw won Forsyth County News Boys Golfer of the Year honors.
“It was special to be a part of,” rising junior Connor Pollman said.
It was a far cry from where West was in 2009. Roy had just arrived at West after coaching in Gwinnett County. He was a basketball coach, having spent time on the staffs of current Texas Tech men’s coach Tubby Smith at Georgia, current Oklahoma State men’s coach Travis Ford at Campbellsville University and then at boys high school programs in Gwinnett County.
Then-West athletic director Dennis Stromie asked Roy if he would take over the boys golf team.
“I think my response came out faster than it the time it took coach Stromie to ask the question,” Roy said.
At the time, Roy had little more than a leisurely background in golf, West had no more than six players in the program, and for a few years, that was good enough.
But Roy’s coaching instincts eventually took over. He went to clinics and watched instructional videos, talked to parents and starting watching the Golf Channel.
“I just try to be a sponge and take in as much as I can and pick and choose, pretty much as if I were coaching any other sport,” Roy said. “Try to be a student of the game. Anything that can make our team and program better, I’m willing to do.”
Roy started to market the team in the school and the community more. The team grew to 10 golfers. He started a junior varsity team two years ago and had 15. This past season West kept 20 golfers.
Naturally, West started to have more success. Walker Slaton was the first West boys golfer to make the state tournament in 2012. Last season, the Wolverines made its first appearance as a team at the state tournament and came in seventh in AAAAAA, the best finish of any Forsyth County team.
Then West started this season with a fury of success. They finished second at their own Wolverine Invitational on March 16. Five days later, they came in runner-up at the West Hall Invitational on March 21. A week later, they won the Packer Invitational.
For a program that had never won any kind of trophy, West had three in less than two weeks.
“I think at that point our kids felt like they could compete with anybody,” Roy said.
With five of their top six golfers returning, West believes it can do so again next season.
Shaw graduates, off to Georgia Tech, and his absence will be felt.
“He led by example,” rising senior Drew Ridings said. “Every practice he was there and involved with you. He was always helping people out if they needed help.”
Pollman added: “He helped put West out there for us.”
But West now believes it has the kind of program to sustain the loss of Shaw. Ridings will be the lone senior next season, an all-state player who averaged 77 in tournament play. Pollman leads a group of rising juniors in Austin Amburgy and Austin Jaynes. Connor Ferri became a key cog for the Wolverines as a freshman this past season.
All have filled their summer playing amateur tournaments, sometimes all together when their schedules line up just right.
They feel ready to pick up where 2015 left off.
“I think the whole team is going to step up,” Pollman said. “We’re going to come back bigger than we were last year if we keep working hard.”