|High school golf coaches do their part to grow the game|
|- By Jeff Gilbert (@jw_gilbert)|
|Head coach: Alex Schuster, 9th season|
|Successes: Six straight Division II state tournament appearances. State champion in 2022. Three-time state runner-up from 2019-2021.|
Alter’s successful formula includes a robust youth and middle school program, coaching continuity and a challenging schedule. It’s all added up to the high school program growing from 15 players when Schuster took over to 38 this season.
Schuster has five coaches to help him administer and coach two varsity teams and two JV teams. The talent is equally distributed on the JV teams. The varsity gold team is the tournament team with the best players, including 2022 individual state champion Davis Gochenouer. The varsity brown team plays a mix of 18-hole tournaments and 9-hole matches.
“It's all about getting an opportunity,” Schuster said. “If you continually post a few good numbers in a row in the 70s, then the more opportunities you'll get to play with the top group.”
Schuster doesn’t run the youth levels, but he does make it a point to be around when he can to get to know players and parents. Those teams play at the CYO level and compete against other schools, mostly from the Cincinnati area.
“I'm not going to take credit for this myself, but the youth program has definitely grown since I took over the golf program,” Schuster said. “I'd say it is as much coincidence as anything, but with success it has generated more interest with the younger kids and keeps them playing. More and more of them are choosing to continue playing golf in high school.”
When those kids make it to high school Schuster sees more of them ready to compete at that level.
“At our tryouts this year we had 25 kids shoot a two-day tryout score under 200, meaning you get more and more kids every year that are able to shoot scores inside of three digits,” he said.
Schuster’s long tenure also plays a part in the success, as does his presence in the school as a teacher, which is less common in all sports than it used to be.
“It helps as a teacher at the school to be more present,” Schuster said. “Every year there's a lot of the kids I also teach. So being able to form and forge good relationships with the kids that way has been beneficial.
“Kids walk into my classroom, and not only do they see things about Alter and things about social studies, but I've got the trophies that we've won over the years at different tournaments. And I always try to keep our scorecard from the state tournament every year, and I usually hang that in my classroom. It’s something that generates a lot of interest.”
Schuster takes his gold team around the state to 18-hole tournaments to prepare them for the postseason. For example, in an early season tournament in Medina, the Knights shot 297 to finish third behind Division I powers Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cleveland St. Ignatius, schools with at least 1,000 more boys than Alter.“I think that goes a long way,” Schuster said. “Obviously, you can't do that a ton in every sport in high school, but I think playing a difficult schedule is beneficial in terms of just getting you more prepared for the big matches that just count a little bit more. If you're coming into a sectional used to playing against really tough competition, that just makes you more prepared to handle the moment at the sectional, district and state level.”