Don James: Swings for hole-in-one, settles for omelette

James: 'I Want all my players to be better for having played for me but I insist they become better people.'

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Golf coach, theater enthusiast and omelet lover Don James coaches the Oak Park High School golf team.

James, Oak Park High School’s golf coach of 18 years, chose to join the program in 2001 over becoming a high school teacher or joining the military. During the 2001-02 season, he coached boys’ golf and later, during the 2005-06 season, girls’ soccer. He began coaching girls’ golf in 2014.

James said he finds that a good way to connect with the players is to treat them as he would treat his fellow adults.

It’s not long before you get a sense of who responds better to constructive criticism and who responds better to humor and when a player might just need a morale boost.”

— Don James

“I expect them to act like adults and, in turn, I treat them like adults,” James wrote to the Talon. “We all, regardless of age, have things in common and you just have to have one thing in common to connect. It’s not long before you get a sense of who responds better to constructive criticism and who responds better to humor and when a player might just need a morale boost.”

James taught elementary school and coached athletics for the last 45 years — including several years in college — prior to coaching at the high school. He attended University of Maryland and Western Washington State College for his undergraduate studies.

“I’ve taught elementary school so that prepared me [for this position],” James wrote.

Though he now coaches in California, James was not raised in this country. He played other sports before he set his sights on golf, which was the focus of his first job in California.

“Growing up in Germany, I played baseball and soccer all through high school and in college. The first job I had in California was as assistant golf professional at Calabasas Country Club in 1975 and 1976,” James wrote.

I would like to live forever and see world peace but since that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon, I would settle for a really good omelet.”

— Don James

James not only spent years in Germany, but in Spain as well. He was born into a family involved in the military and moved from place to place.

“I grew up as a poor white child in a military family and as such I spent eight years in Germany and Spain. Those included my high school years. The best and worst thing about growing up in the military is that you know every three or four years you’re going to move and have to make new friends,” James wrote. “Anything else I tell you about it is a military secret and if I tell you, I’d have to kill you.”

James said he has aspirations both big and small.

“I would like to live forever and see world peace but since that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon, I would settle for a really good omelet,” James wrote. “Beyond that, I want all my players to be better for having played for me, but I insist they become better people.”

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