Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville has not participated in intercollegiate sports since the early 1980s.
That changes this morning in Cullman, Ala., where the NACC Mustangs will tee off in a tournament hosted by Wallace State at Cross Creek Golf Course.
The men's team is scheduled to play there today and Tuesday; the equally new women's golf team will play there early next week.
The coach of both Mustangs teams is Darrell Kirk, who also started golf at North Sand Mountain High School when he was the football and girls' basketball coach there in the 1980s and '90s.
"I've played golf since I was a senior in high school, and I love to play," Kirk said this weekend. "I'm not the best golfer in the world, but I can coach and I can relate to kids.
"I've been out of education for eight years, but you never want to give up teaching and working with kids. This has given me a new outlook on life."
The men's team has seven members, all from area high schools: Ethan Everett (Dade County); Hunter Hill (North Sand Mountain); Trevor Gibson (Plainview), Austin Webb (Section) and Corey Guffey, Cory Wheeler and Caleb Little (Pisgah). Comprising the girls' team are Adrianne Fox (Fort Payne), Tatem Jones (Crossville, Ala.), Kelsey Draper (Pisgah) and Bailey Raulston (South Pittsburg).
Once the addition of golf was made official in May, Kirk said, tryouts were set for two dates in June — at Goose Pond Colony at Scottsboro and Dogwood Hills at Flat Rock.
Some of the players already were enrolled at NACC and some came back to college when they learned golf was being started, said athletic director Chad Gorham, like Kirk a former area coach and public school administrator. He has worked seven years at the college, the past two as director of extended day/distance learning (night school/online instruction).
That job also includes special projects for the president, Dr. David Campbell, and venturing back into National Junior College Athletic Association sports fell into that category. That and Gorham's background made him the natural choice as athletic director.
He and Kirk have known each other for years, having served simultaneously as principals at different Jackson County schools, and one day in the spring when Kirk went to the college to have lunch with his wife — who works in NACC's English department — Gorham asked if he would like to coach golf again. That led to an interview with Campbell and eventually to Kirk's new job.
"This is the first team they've had since, I believe, 1983," Kirk said. "They had (men's and women's) basketball, but about that time 17 or 18 junior colleges in Alabama dropped sports and Northeast was one of them. Those were bad economic times.
"Starting up, we couldn't ask for anything more than we've got from Dr. Campbell and the college. All the people have been very nice, and as excited as everybody is you'd think we're a football team."
Gorham said the excitement extends throughout DeKalb and Jackson counties and to colleges statewide. He also praised the generosity and cooperation from Dogwood Hills and Goose Pond for the Mustangs' practice sessions and other help.
NACC's special relationship with Dogwood Hills was part of the impetus for establishing the teams. That course will belong to the college someday, although Gorham emphasized the school is in no hurry.
Owner-operators Doris and Bryce Slater, former educators with no children of their own, decided a few years ago to deed the course to the college when they were no longer alive or able to run it. Bryce subsequently died, but Doris is still very active and manages the facility.
"And we hope it stays that way as long as possible," Gorham said, while admitting eventual ownership of a golf course led Campbell and others to believe the college should have teams to go with it.
"Our president is a great leader, and this is his vision," the AD added. "He realized that if we were going to get back into athletics, golf would be a good way to do it."
There are 12 Alabama community colleges with golf as of now, Kirk said, and Georgia Northwestern Technical College also is in the tournament at Cullman. NACC's teams each will play four tournaments this semester and "four or five" in the spring semester.
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.