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Former Sooner trades in pro golf dream for teaching


Jay C. Upchurch August 21st, 2008

Over the course of two years, Kelsey Cline drove more than 100,000 miles, crisscrossing the country in hopes of someday earning a spot on the PGA Tour. During that stretch, he practically lived out o...

Over the course of two years, Kelsey Cline drove more than 100,000 miles, crisscrossing the country in hopes of someday earning a spot on the PGA Tour.

During that stretch, he practically lived out of a suitcase in a seemingly endless series of hotel rooms, with all of his spare time spent practicing and preparing for the weekly grind.

INHERITING A LINEUP
A LASTING FRIENDSHIP

It was by no means a glamorous existence. But Cline, like so many other golfers, was chasing the dream.

Five years later, he has settled back down in Norman, where he played college golf for the University of Oklahoma and was the Big 12 Conference runner-up in 2001. And while he experienced some success as a professional golfer, he has put that particular dream behind him.

These days, the Mustang native is living a different dream " one that still involves golf and figures to test the steely resolve he showed as competitor.

"This is what I honestly feel I'm supposed to be doing with my life," said Cline, days after being named head coach of the Oklahoma Christian University men's golf program. "I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity and I'm really excited about getting the chance to work with a group of young, motivated individuals."

Cline, who has no previous collegiate coaching experience, replaces veteran coach David Lynn.

"I have always wanted to coach college golf. My sports passion is golf and my passion in life is to positively influence young people any way I can," Cline said. "With no experience, I wasn't sure I'd even get an interview. But I felt if I did get one, I'd have a realistic chance at getting the job."

INHERITING A LINEUP
Fortunately for him, everything worked out. He inherits a lineup that returns three All-Americans in Fernando Gonzales, Axel Ochoa and Oscar Stark. That trio should give him an opportunity to hit the course running this coming fall.

On the downside, the job is not considered full-time " at least where the pay is concerned " so Cline also just recently accepted a job as director of corporate relations with the Marc Heitz Auto Group in Norman.

"I'm probably the luckiest guy alive. To have the opportunity to coach at this level "¦ I feel fortunate," Cline said. "My plate is definitely full, but honestly, I like it like that."

Cline believes his past experiences in the game will be beneficial when it comes to coaching, teaching and mentoring his young team.

"I've been where they're at. I know what they are going through," he said. "Every step of my life has taught me different things and led me to where I am. I cherish my time at OU and all the friends I made and the relationships that came with it. The same with playing professionally " it was a good experience, for the most part."

Cline has not lost his enjoyment for playing golf. In fact, he still has plenty of game, as he showed this summer when he won the Westwood Fourth of July Tournament. Twice over the past six months, he has recorded rounds of 60.

"I can still play, but in my heart and soul, I would rather be a coach at this point of my life. I feel this is my chance to give something back, especially to the young kids I'll be working with," he said, pointing to longtime friend and mentor Ray Thurmond as an inspirational figure in his life.

A LASTING FRIENDSHIP
Now 87, Thurmond coached golf and men's basketball at OU back in the Sixties and Seventies. The two met at the OU golf course when Cline was playing for the Sooners and they eventually struck up a lasting friendship.

"Coach Thurmond is my main man. He has set such a great example with his life, the way he coached and worked with young people. I want to make him proud," Cline said.

Meanwhile, the people who know Cline best believe he is perfectly cut out to be a golf coach.

"Honestly, Kelsey has everything you want in a coach: a great personality, great work ethic and a real knowledge of the game. I believe he'll do a great job," said Oklahoma State University coach Mike McGraw.

Former OU coach Gregg Grost also believes Cline is the right man for the job.

"I'm thrilled for Kelsey," Grost said. "This is something he's been getting ready for since he was 16 years old. He has a great opportunity to take over a successful program and keep that tradition going." "Jay C. Upchurch

 
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