STAUNTON – Taking up a sport rather late in your scholastic career may not be so bad after all.
At least that’s the case for some of the players on Robert E. Lee’s state championship golf team.
For Lee, seniors Jesse Bartley and Gunner Cook never took up the sport until the eighth and ninth grades respectively.
Before challenging the links, both were very good at hitting the ball, but it was a different one having played Kiwanis Baseball from childhood.
Bartley was familiar with the golf course way before she started playing the sport. You could find her following her older brother, Andrew, at many tournaments at Gypsy Hill, where he has accumulated numerous titles.
“It was middle school when I picked it up,” she said. “And it is the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Over the years, her scores have gotten better and better. She was one of the counters at the state tournament with an 85-84–169.
Playing on the difficult Golden Eagle Golf Club course, Bartley said she sought some brotherly advice.
“I called Andrew and he told me to relax and take it one shot at a time. That meant something, not only coming from my brother, but from someone who has been in pressure situations before.”
Cook did not take up the sport until he was in high school.
“It was my freshman year,” he said. “And give credit to my granddad. In four years, I’ve gone from thinking it was just old people, to a fun game. It’s the best four years of experience I’ve ever had.”
Cook’s best round at the state was, like Baratley, an 84. But both golfers can shoot below that. Both were counters in the Conference 36 championship with scores in the 70s.
So, it just goes to show it’s never too late to start a sport. Who knows, it might lead to a state championship.