Coach Spotlight: James Wood golf coach David Oates

David Oates has served as James Wood’s golf coach since 2013. In his seven seasons, he has been named The Winchester Star Golf Coach of the Year three times (2013, 2017, 2019). Oates guided the Colonels to the region tournament in each of those three seasons.

In 2019, James Wood placed third at the Class 4 Northwestern District tournament and fifth in the Region 4C tournament.

Oates is a 1985 James Wood graduate who played golf all four years for the Colonels. As a senior in 1984, he placed second at the Group AAA Northwestern Region Championships and participated in the state tournament. Oates also played basketball for four years as a forward. Oates graduated from Radford University in 1989.

Q. What are your favorite memories as an athlete?

Oates: We had a really good team [at James Wood]. We had a strong nucleus of kids that were all in the same grade, and we really pushed each other. Back in those days, we were in the Commonwealth District, and the closest team was Fauquier. Almost all our matches were in the Woodbridge area, so there were a lot of fun times in the van, going to the matches and coming back. At that time, we only played 18-hole matches, so we spent a lot of time together as a team. A lot of those guys are still good friends of mine.

Of course, the other highlight was the regional tournament [at Carper’s Valley Golf Club in Frederick County]. The district tournament the week before, I really struggled, but we punched our ticket through [to regionals] as a team. I struggled a little on the front nine [at the region tournament], but I made myself determined that I was going to do the best I could. I shot even-par on the back nine and moved up on the leaderboard to second [with a total of 77]. We had another teammate who qualified in a playoff to go on to the state tournament. To my knowledge, James Wood has had one team go to the state tournament, and I don’t know if they’ve ever had another year where two individuals went. It’s rare to qualify for the state tournament. One other favorite golf memory, was in ‘84, we beat Handley for the first time in a very long time. They had a very good team.

In basketball my junior year, I was a role player, a practice player. Most of the guys on the team were seniors and the year before they had gone to the [state] semifinals in AAA. The guys that didn’t play a lot had a cheering section. When we would get into games, they would start cheering our names. When Coach [Don] Hambleton would put us in, that was a lot of fun.

Q. When did you know you wanted to be a coach?

Oates: About 18 years ago, I lived in the city of Winchester, and the golf coach at the time stepped down at Handley. I called up Mr. [Ron] Lindon [the Handley athletic director], and we chatted about it. But he had a better candidate and the timing wasn’t right for me because I had a young family and I was busy with my work. When I heard that the James Wood job was open [in 2013], I talked to my family about it and they told me to just go in and interview for it. They said you don’t want to wake up sometime in the future and go, ‘I wish I would have tried that.’ Luckily, Mr. [Craig] Woshner [James Wood’s coordinator of student activities] offered me the position.

Q. Who are your biggest coaching influences?

Oates: Golf-wise, it’s Jerry Tingle. He was my coach all four years. He works at Shenandoah [Valley Golf Club], where we practice. He still gives me pointers. He talks to some of our kids and gives them pointers. So he was a big influence with coaching style. Coach Hambleton was a big influence because I was around him since sixth or seventh grade. At that time, James Wood’s varsity team, James Wood’s JV team, and Frederick County Junior High’s ninth-, eighth- and seventh-grade teams all practiced in the same gym up at Frederick County Middle School. I got yelled at by Hambleton from early on, so he was a big influence. My father Roger was a huge, huge influence with my golf game and golf coaching. And [late] Coach [Rob] Wright from Sherando and Mark Manspile from Millbrook have been influential since I started coaching.

Q. What’s the best coaching advice you’ve received?

Oates: I pick up tidbits from everybody I talk to. I want the kids to have fun. They get down easily because they’re all alone out there. I just try to relate to each of the kids and try to find out what motivates them. One interesting piece of advice that I got, I think it was three or four years ago, Coach [Russ] Korn a [former Millbrook coach], he was at Dominion at that time, and we had a really, really young team. He said we all want to win, but when you have a young team, sometimes that takes the pressure off of you. You get to really work with the kids. That group of kids who were seniors [for the 2019-20 school year] this year that stuck with the program, that was good to know for them. It was a good piece of advice.

Q. What have been your most difficult coaching moments?

Oates: Ironically, they were disappointing, but they turned into being positive.

Two years ago in the district tournament, one of our players didn’t hole out his ball, which you’re required to do. He got disqualified and that cost our team a chance to go to regionals as a team. The positive was we got four of the six individual spots for regionals.

Last year at the district tournament we had a golfer disqualified [for accidentally signing an incorrect scorecard]. I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it to regionals as a team, and that was very disappointing as far as how everything played out. But our No. 6 kid [Evan Peterman] came through for us and we moved on as a team to the region tournament.

Both were disappointing and difficult, but both turned out well in the end because our kids just kept working hard.

Q. What have been your favorite coaching moments?

Oates: There’s a lot. Any coach will tell you these kids probably give you more back than you give them.

I was very fortunate the first two years to have someone go to the state tournament. The first year [2013] was Will Holmes [who took 10th]. He was just an artist on the golf course. Tee to green, he was probably the best player there. For some reason, he couldn’t get any putts to drop. It was of fun watching him, because I watched him play since he was a little boy.

And the next year Roger Repasky made it [in 2014]. We went to the state course [at Ivy Hill Golf Club in Forest] and played nine holes, and he was playing so well, I knew something special could happen. Roger is a talented player, but he’s got this incredible will. It’s almost like he can will a ball into a hole when he absolutely has to have it, whether it’s a long putt or a chip-in, or something. He battled all day, and that was the year it got rained out (the second round consisted of only one hole). Brett Loy from Sherando wound up winning the individual title and Roger finished second. That was probably the best moment because I was really happy for Coach Wright and for Brett and his family, and of course I was overjoyed for Roger and his family and our program.

— Compiled by Robert Niedzwiecki


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