Tyler Holt once teed it up for McKenzie’s golf team and played for head coach Larry Joe Smith. He knows what it meant to play golf for the Rebel program and the legacy that follows.
Smith will step away from the high school coaching ranks next year to take over as Bethel University’s golf mentor. Holt, who has been a teacher and coach at Waverly High School, was recently named as Smith’s successor. He knows he had big shoes to fill.
“Huge shoes, definitely, legendary status, you might even say,” Holt said. “I played golf for two years for him, my junior and senior year. My freshman-sophomore year, I played basketball for him.”
Holt isn’t so far removed from his playing days that he has forgotten the example that Smith set as a coach and teacher, but that doesn’t mean the transition will be easy.
“It’s going to be very challenging. I’m already trying to brainstorm and figure out how he (Smith) read it when I was there” he said. “As for trying to do what he did, I’m not going to redo anything. I’m going to to try to pick up where he left off and I hope he’ll around to help me if I need it.”
Smith had much success with the golf program, taking teams to the state tournament eight times going back to 1995 and taking, perhaps, dozens more to play individually.
“As far as the amount of pressure, it will be there, but it’s not like stepping in for basketball. Golf is an individual sport and you don’t have to draw up plays,” Holt said. “The thing I remember about Coach Smith, he knew everyone has their own swing. I’m not going to be the coach watching the kid hit and trying to correct. He had that vibe, if you want that help, ask, if not, he’ll put you where you need to go. I’ll do my best to do that.”
The laissez faire method worked well. “I don’t want to overcrowd the kids. When I do meet with the players, I’ll let them know up front. If they want my help, they can ask,” Holt said.
He plans to encourage the players to play as often as they can during the off-season. Holt said when he played, Carroll Lake Golf Course allowed high school players to walk nine holes for free. He and his teammates would go out to the course two or three times a week. Holt hopes his players will work, individually, to get better.
Holt teaches high school geometry and honors geometry at Waverly High School and is an assistant baseball coach. He will teach eighth grade math at McKenzie Middle School.
“I had an excellent teacher in Paula Doster when I was in high school,” said Holt. “She made it fun, but she also pushed you. I hope I can be that same kind of teacher.”
Holt also will rejoin his high school teammate Nick Chappell with the McKenzie Middle School baseball team. Chappell is the head coach and Holt will be the assistant. Both played baseball and were freshman during the state-championship season in 2006. He and Chappell are friends and he’s excited for that opportunity.
The former Rebel standout, who also played basketball at Bethel, said he has been very happy as a coach and teacher at Waverly, and he’s savored the chance for the right opportunity to come back to McKenzie.
“I’ve always figured I’d make my way back home, either being a teacher or coach at McKenzie, or someplace being close to home, but I wasn’t going to force anything,” Holt said. “I told myself since I love it here, I don’t want to rush home and take a job that’s not a good opportunity. When this came up, it was the opportunity I was looking for. I want to run with it for a while. I want to find my groove pretty quick.”
Holt will finish up his duties at Waverly on June 9 and then assume his role at McKenzie.
“I’m super excited, but nervous in a sense and I hope the town accepts me and I hope to do well,” he said. “I’ll need a lot of help and guidance from Coach Smith. Once I figure it out, I hope to keep it rolling.”
Tyler is the son of Mike and Deborah Holt of McKenzie.