Interim Coach Provides Spark for RJR Golf’s Playoff Push

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Interim Coach Provides Spark for RJR Golf’s Playoff Push

Photo via Golf Digest

Photo via Golf Digest

Photo via Golf Digest

Photo via Golf Digest

Hill Douglas, Managing Editor

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    Filling the shoes of former R.J. Reynolds legend Lewis “Sarge” Green as golf coach is a tall task, but if anybody can do it, it’s interim coach Sam Puryear. Puryear is the brother of assistant principal Eric Puryear, and will be coaching the Demons golf team for the last couple months of the season. Coach Hobbs took a brief job as an interim school superintendent for the remainder of the school year, so Puryear took over the reigns of the program after spring break. The interim coach has a resumé that runs as deep as his team this year.

   Coming out of high school, Puryear was one of Catana Starks’ first golf recruits at Tennessee State University. The movie From the Rough was subsequently filmed to immortalize Starks’ story as the first woman to ever coach a men’s college golf team. Puryear had the opportunity to be a consultant during the production of the movie.

    “A coach who had done so much for all of us, watching someone do a movie about their life and their existence was pretty incredible, Puryear said. “For me it was great to see her rewarded.”

   After his time as a player at Tennessee State, Puryear relocated to Atlanta where he was the Executive Director of the East Lake Junior Golf Academy. From 1998 to 2006, Puryear increased the program’s enrollment from 150 students to over 1,000.

   “The First Tee modeled their First Tee programs after what we did at East Lake in Atlanta, so it was a pretty big deal actually,” Puryear said.

   His efforts in Atlanta gained national recognition, and he was able to land a job as an assistant coach at Stanford University. His success on the West Coast was immediate, helping Stanford to an NCAA championship in 2007.

  “To know that you’re the best is unbelievable,” Puryear said. “You put so much effort, so much time, so much heart, into practice and events and to watch it all culminate when you’re playing the best golfers in the United States for the championship, it’s something you never forget.”

   Puryear soon left Stanford for a head coaching job at Michigan State University. Once again, it didn’t take him much time to find success.

   “I went up there and won a Big Ten Championship, Coach of the Year, we had two other NCAA appearances,” Puryear said. “It was a lot of fun.”

    Some of the memories he made in East Lansing will last him a lifetime.

“One of my players, I helped him develop, he ended up playing in the Masters,” Puryear said. “It was gratifying watching young guys have a chance to live their dreams.”

    Now, after spending some time as Director of Golf Operations at Queens University in Charlotte, Puryear has taken over the Reynolds program for a couple months. Players are excited to play under a coach with such extensive experience at high levels.

    “He knows how to coach in every situation because he’s been in all of them,” senior golfer Richard Dull said. “He focuses a lot on our mental game and making sure we’re coming in with a lot of confidence, making sure that we are ready to do what he knows we are capable of.”

    So far, Puryear has enjoyed his time with Reynolds.

    “I’m having a great time,” Puryear said. There are some wonderful young guys on the team and I’m hoping I can positively impact them in their golf and for their future.”

   Puryear is not messing around though, and wants his players to get right down to work with him as their coach.

   “I’m going to make sure from now until the end we’re gonna work as hard as we can in order to be prepared for what we have in front of us; conference, regionals, and states,” Puryear said.

    Given his repeated success at high level programs, Puryear has high expectations for the Reynolds golf team to end the season.

    “Number one, we’ll go to regionals. Number two, we’ll make it to state. Number three, my last expectation is, I actually expect us to have a chance to compete for the state title,” Puryear said. “I think if we play our best golf, if we’re properly prepared, we’re focused, we’ll have a chance to compete for a state title.”

    When Puryear had his first opportunity to meet the players, he took no time for equivocation. He reached the players by immediately expressing his intentions with the team, and was able to tap into a concept the team has been motivated by all season; ring chasing.

    “The first day he came to Winston Lake, he said it was all about the jewelry, because he wants to win at states just bad as we do,” senior golfer Jordan Fant said.

    With Coach Sam Puryear leading the way for the Demons, the team is more confident than ever, and looking forward to the upcoming weeks leading to the state tournament in Pinehurst.

    “Lets just say, I’m ready to add to my jewelry collection,” Dull said.