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Danecdotes: Stone returns to coach Patriot girls

Pequot Lakes graduate Savannah Stone will return to the school this year to serve as the coach of the girls golf team. Dan Determan/Echo Journal

Four years ago, Savannah Stone was a state-qualifying member of the Pequot Lakes Patriot girls golf team.

This year, she is back as the team's head coach.

"I think it will be pretty cool," Stone said. "Only four years ago, I was in (the athletes') shoes so I can relate to what is going on with them. If they have a bad day, I can say, 'Yeah, I've been there' or 'I shot a 100 on this course too.' I'm not just going to be their friend, though. I'm going to be their coach too and I want to get them through the tough times and get on them about focusing at practice and getting to where we need to be."

The 2013 Pequot Lakes graduate recently finished her final season of college golf and graduated from the University of Concordia in St. Paul with degrees in psychology and kinesiology, along with a minor in coaching. In studying kinesiology, she learned about biomechanics and how the most seemingly inconsequential movement can impact a golfer's swing.

"It's something that you can work on individually and there is something new to learn every day," Stone said. "It is just the small movements ... Even the smallest movement can have the most dramatic change on your swing. It is something you have to work really hard at every single day. Even if it's just for one round that you do really well, you just feel like it was so worth it."

Stone had initially planned to move to Oregon and pursue a doctorate in psychology, but decided that coaching was what she wanted to pursue.

"I asked myself many times what would make me the happiest," she said. "Working with kids and coaching, that just brings me so much joy. Being able to share my knowledge of sports and share in their excitement in winning and overcoming obstacles is so much for me. If you find something you love to do, why not pursue that?"

Though she has been in the workforce full time for only two months, she already brings some coaching experience, having served as coach of the Bloomington Jefferson High School Alpine skiing team while in college, as well as coach of the summer junior golf league at Crosswoods Golf Course in Crosslake - a course owned by her parents, Mike and Kelly Stone, where she is also an employee.

With that experience - and her experience as a college golfer - Stone has some ideas as to how she wants to coach the Patriots.

"Bringing some of the things I learned from college - some of the drills and the practice regimens we did - I can start them off right away and we can get a fresh start," Stone said. "(The Patriot golfers) are really young, so I'm hoping they will be really receptive to what I have to say, and I think we can build off that."

She also hopes her background in psychology will help her golfers master the mental aspect of the game, which can impact a golfer's score more than the mechanics of a swing.

"That was a big thing for me throughout my four years, and I developed a pretty strong mental game by my senior year," Stone said. "You can't get too high or too low, so I want to talk with them about strategies you can use on the course. If you have a blow-up, can you come back from that, or is that going to define your round?"

Ultimately, though, Stone hopes to help her athletes make some lasting memories - as many of her high school memories came on the course or in the van with her teammates - and to show them the sport can take you places with some dedication.

"I feel like I get really passionate about golf, so I want to share that with them and let them know that there is a future in this," Stone said. "You can go play college golf and there are a lot of opportunities. It was one of the best decisions I ever made to do that, and you can go so far with it."

This year's Patriot girls golf team will be very young, with the oldest returning athletes only sophomores. Because of that, Stone knows her first season as coach may be a rebuilding year of sorts, but she sees potential in the golfers available and feels success can be in their future with a little patience.

"I have to get to them first and see the potential that we really do have, but for next year I am focused on building a strong team. I am not too worried about the outcomes and I'm not going to say, 'I want to win five tournaments, go to state or win state,' because I know that might not be realistic for this next year. By the time these girls are juniors and seniors, I want to be very competitive and get back to the state tournament as a team."

Dan Determan
Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper