RENTON – Teresa Caluori saw a group of golfers from Hazen High School in need of more structure.
During late summer, before the 2010 fall season, the Hazen golf team was losing its golf coach, Jeff Wood. When Caluori, an LPGA teaching pro at Renton’s Maplewood Golf Course, saw the team aimless, coachless and without focus at the Maplewood driving range that summer, she knew she had to step in.
“This kind of happened on a mistake,” Caluori said. “The kids didn’t have a coach. Their coach resigned. And working here, I saw them practicing. So I asked them, ‘Where’s your coach?’ And, they said, ‘We don’t have one.’ ”
Caluori applied for the job, and, almost instantly, the program gained credibility. The lost looks quickly turned into drive and direction, thanks to Caluori demanding more accountability and a more professional approach from her players.
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Four years later, the Highlanders boys team is making school history.
Even with Thursday’s 97-90 loss to Seamount League power Kennedy Catholic, Hazen (9-1) had already wrapped up at least a share of the school’s first regular-season league championship in golf.
Hazen defeated JFK (8-1) on Oct. 1, which was believed to be the Highlanders’ first win over the Lancers since 2003.
“Beating Kennedy was huge,” said Caluori, a 1982 graduate of Juanita High School who never played high-school or college golf. “This 2013 Hazen Highlander team of boys is the best team I have had in the four years I have been coaching them.”
Caluori, who started playing golf at age 20 to spend more time with her cancer-stricken grandmother, takes pride in teaching her Hazen players about the game, but just as much about life.
“When I came in, I had my rules,” said Caluori, who aspires to be a college coach. “I laid out my 10 Golden Rules.”
It all boils down to respecting others, being passionate and learning from a patient teacher of the game.
“We want to try to set a standard for other students, so they wish they were on the golf team,” she said. “I want all of my players to be respectful.”
The Highlanders possess the kind of depth to do well at the Seamount League tournament on Oct. 26 at Auburn Golf Course. Three spots to state in the spring are on the line. Sophomore Nick Yee, who has been medalist in seven matches, leads a tight pack of talented golfers.
Seniors Ethan Morris, David Hu and Shae Slater and sophomores Tyler Learn and Cooper Page round out a strong top six. Hu has been medalist twice and Morris, who tied for 36th at state Class 2A last year, has been medalist once this season. Morris, Hu and Yee have all shot season-low scores of 35. Eleven of 15 team members have qualified for the league tournament.
A lot of the team’s success has come down to better preparation and higher expectations.
That preparation has led to the milestone regular-season crown already, but the Highlanders have their sights on hanging a banner at Hazen with a strong showing in the league tournament.
“There’s not a single banner in the gym for golf,” said Hu. “Every single sport has one, just not golf yet. It’s significant because all the other banners for sports are in 1984 and 1983 and this will be recent.”
And for that, Hazen has Caluori and her attention to detail to thank.
Through a chance meeting two weeks ago at the Maplewood driving range, Caluori recently starting giving golf lessons to Seattle Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
Caluori had no idea who Sherman and Browner were when she admonished them for pulling out their drivers right away instead of warming up properly. It turned into yet another teaching opportunity.
“She expects better out of us than any other coach has,” said Ethan Morris. “She expects us to get better. She does keep it fun and relaxed. She has a good time with it, and everyone likes her. Everyone plays better for her.”
As Hu departed a recent practice, he indicated that he’d see Caluori in two days at Thursday’s practice. Caluori quickly corrected his scheduling confusion.
“We have a match on Thursday, and you’re going to get out of school at 1:15 p.m.,” Caluori replies. “See you Thursday. It’s only the biggest match of the year.”
It’s all in the details for Caluori. And, it’s providing results.