At age 14, Ryan Barnes found his passion in life.
And now he’s helping other youngsters develop that same passion as a coach, Weatherford High School’s new coach, in fact.
Once he realized his love for golf, Barnes went all-in. No multiple sports for this guy, who instantly had dreams of playing big-time some day.
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"I gave up all sports to just focus on golf when I was 14," said Barnes.
He was a natural. Soon after he won his first tournament in that same year. He played on two national tours as a junior golfer and played varsity golf on his high school team as a freshman.
He was a golf student of legendary golf instructor and former Tiger Woods coach Hank Haney in McKinney for three years.
"From him I learned a lot of what to do and a lot of what not to do," said Barnes. "Bottom line there is no great golf instructor for everybody. Everyone must, in a sense, learn to become their own instructor .
"Furthermore, it’s important to find an instructor that works with your own individual swing, not making your swing into theirs. I have found that it all starts with learning everything you can about yourself and your own game for yourself."
Unfortunately, for Barnes, by the beginning of his senior year in high school he developed stress fractures in his lower back and playing competitive golf became too painful.
"It was extremely difficult and even more painful than the stress fractures to walk away from the game," he said.
However, the exit was only temporary. He found a new passion channeled differently in the same sport. Everything he knew, the talents he honed could still be put to use vicariously through youngsters he would coach.
"I fell in love with golf all over again as a coach," he said
And he has also found success coaching. Last year he was the head golf coach at Keene. Within his first year two boys and one girl qualified for regionals. No boy had ever qualified for regionals in golf in Keene history.
"I’m extremely proud of that feat," said Barnes. "Last year let me know that with talented kids and my competitive tournament golf experience, great things are possible.
"And being in Weatherford now, and seeing the unbelievable talent that I’ve been blessed to work with here in these kids, I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us."
Barnes said his arrival in Weatherford has signaled a brand new, clean slate for the program.
"This year compared to last year we have four solid teams. We have team Black and team Blue for both boys and girls.Team black is the top team and Blue is the preparatory team," he said.
"I coach team Black for both boys and girls. My assistant, Jordan Coffman, will be coaching team Blue for both boys and girls.
"I used the fall season this year to see what needed to be worked on, to see where our greatest strengths were. I used it as a practice season to get us ready to win district and see what we needed to work on most to make that happen.
"Now that spring has started, or regular season, as I like to see it, the land of possibility and opportunity has arrived."
Two players, sophomore Connor Mccswain and senior Bryce Akins, have earned the top two spots on team Black for the boys. Other top players include juniors T.J. Wittrock and Cade Clement, senior Scott Dial, and freshman Kade Jones.
Top players for the girls so far include freshmen Chandler Crippen and Brylee Haile, along with sophomore Lauren Roper.
However, Barnes said any player has the opportunity to battle for and earn their place for each tournament on team Black.
"I told them on Day One that I don’t care who you are, how old you are, what color you are, or anything else. All I want are the top players who love this game," he said.
Barnes has his sights set high, such as a district championship as soon as this season.
"Within the next two years I want to go to state and win. I have already put regionals on the schedule for this year," he said.
"These kids get a chance to fight and earn their way on the top team every single tournament. That goes for both boys and girls. That keeps the incentive high for practicing hard and staying focused.
"So far it has worked very well. The beauty about this game is its simplicity. If your score is lower than his or her score, that’s all I need to see.
"The only way you will beat me is if I beat myself. Therefore, the team to beat is Weatherford and the team not to get beaten by is Weatherford."
Ultimately, Barnes’ plan is to not only help make his players better golfers, but better people. He believes golf can go a long way in helping that happen.
"Watching them walk out on the golf course more confidently than they did the day before and then carrying that confidence in over into the world, into their home, and into their school, is, as far as I’m concerned, a phenomenal success in and of itself," he said.
"If I can help these players and these kids develop confidence in themselves, as far as I’m concerned, we flat out can’t be beat by any other team or anything else in this world."