BY DAVE LINK
Tony Patterson has reached the 19th hole of his career as a high school coach.
Patterson is retiring as a coach after 15 years at Central, where he was a baseball assistant, boys basketball assistant, girls head coach (2010-14), and golf coach all 15 years at the school. He will continue teaching driver’s education and physical education at Central.
“I’ll really miss the kids and the coaches, but it’s time,” Patterson said.
Patterson is the inaugural 5Star Preps girls’ coach of the year, while Christian Academy of Knoxville’s Hank Fennell is the boys’ coach of the year.
While Patterson coached senior Alyssa Montgomery to a third-place finish in the 2018 Class AAA state tournament in the fall, Fennell coached his team to its second consecutive Division II-A state title and its third in four years.
CAK has won five state titles under Fennell, the Warriors’ coach since 2005.
“We’ve been fortunate to have great players who have bought in to our team concept and consistently pursued our program’s goals,” Fennell said. “This year’s senior class, including Cade Russell and Michell Deeson, has been the most successful in school history. They’ve both provided great leadership, and I can’t say enough about what they mean to me as players and as people.”
Russell, a Tennessee signee and the 5Star Preps boys’ golfer of the year, won the Division II-A state tournament as the Warriors claimed the team title by 28 strokes over Christ Presbyterian Academy.
CAK’s Aaron Frazer finished seventh, while Kaleb Wilson tied for 12th and John Meadows tied for 19th.
Fennell said Deeson’s presence was felt even though he wasn’t on the scoreboard at state.
“I’ve never had a better leader in all my years of coaching,” Fennell said of Deeson. “He’s not a player that’s recognized often, but he was the heart and soul of our program the last few years.”
Fennell’s aim is to coach such players.
“While we’re proud of the success we’ve had, more important to me is the relationships that develop among the players and coaches on the team,” Fennell said.
Patterson always will value the relationships he’s developed during his years of coaching at Central.
The 1985 graduate of Jefferson County High and former Carson-Newman baseball player worked in another business before getting into teaching for a couple of years in Jefferson County. He then landed a job at Central in 2004-05, when he became an assistant baseball coach.
Although he’s coached other sports, Patterson’s been a mainstay with Central’s golf program, not just as the coach but also a tournament director. He’s been director of the District 3-AAA for years, and every other year, was director of the Region 2-AAA tournament.
Those duties coincided with coaching his teams.
“It can be very time consuming, but it’s something I’ll miss,” Patterson said. “I’ll miss it, but I’m also looking forward to having more time to play golf.”
Patterson goes out on a high note along with Montgomery, a Virginia Tech signee. She’s the only Central player to reach the state tournament during Patterson’s tenure, and she went four times.
Although he was never able to coach Montgomery during rounds per high school rules, Patterson was her caddie the past two summers in the Tennessee State Open Championships.
It was a memorable experience for coach and player.
“It was so much fun to be in that arena and be able to talk about what golf shot she’s going to hit,” Patterson said. “It was great to do because in high school they don’t let us coach our kids.”
Montgomery said having Patterson’s expertise was invaluable.
“It’s a great help because he’s already such a great golfer, and me and him get along really well on and off the golf course,” she said. “He’s been around me long enough now that he knows and understands my game, and we can just talk through every shot.
“We know exactly where we need to put the ball, and he knows how I’m going to hit it, so he knows like what distance we need, where we’re going to aim, so it’s a big help having that extra confidence with me out there on the course.”