Lewis steps down after four years as leader of HCHS golf program


Greg Lewis

By John Henson, Managing Editor

After helping build the Harlan County golf program to new heights in his four-year tenure, Greg Lewis has decided to step down as coach with his son, Matt, graduating in May.
“I took this job four years ago and tried to completely change the persona of the golf program in Harlan County. I think we have done that,” Lewis said. “I worked with a few other coaches to form and play in the Pine Mountain Golf Conference and started winning quite a bit, winning the program’s first conference championship and the first team invitational win. That success goes back to the unprecedented support this program has been given from (HCHS Principal) Ms. (Kathy) Napier and (HCHS athletic director) Mr. (Eugene) Farmer and the first year I took over the program with Matt (Lewis) and (former HCHS golfer) Caleb Ashley. I came to them and wanted to change everything. We retooled our practice program, the number of matches we play, where we play, everything. If Matt and Caleb didn’t buy into the changes and embrace the new attitude of the golf program, I don’t believe we are where we are today.”
The Bears had their best season this fall, dominating the Pine Mountain Golf Conference while winning numerous matches, including the league title, with a foursome featuring freshman Brayden Casolari, eighth-grader Cole Cornett, sophomore Alex Creech and Lewis, a senior. Casolari was the league champion and became the first HCHS golfer to qualify for state competition. Cornett placed second in the league tournament, while Creech tied for third place.
“I believe the group I had this year is the best golf team in Harlan County history. Records on golf aren’t kept as detailed as many sports, but I would put the record of this team up against any that has ever come through Harlan County. I can’t remember who told me, but I can remember the best piece of advice for coaching I have ever heard. If you can take over a program and make the program be in a better place when you leave than it was when you took over, then you were successful,” Lewis said. “I hope the Black Bear golf program is in a better place now than when I took over. I am looking forward to now just watching as a fan and seeing how far this team can go over the next few years.”
Lewis knows the Bears should be a regional contender in the years to come, but he decided to leave with his son graduating.
“The program we have built is set up to be very successful going forward. I have been asked how I can give up a program that should win the conference championship the next several years. I didn’t take the job for trophies,” he said. “The winning is an added bonus but I took this job to have the opportunity to teach and coach the game I love so much and to spend time with my son doing something we both love. No amount of trophies can take the place of the memories I have made the past four years with Matt. I have gotten to watch him grow as a young man, as a golfer, and he has had incredible success during his four years here and the entire time he did it all the right way.”
“Not only was coach Greg Lewis extremely successful as the golf coach at Harlan County High School, he was also a visionary for the newly created Pine Mountain Golf Conference as he recognized the need to create a league for schools here in the mountains that, otherwise, have to travel so far to fill their schedule,” said Farmer. “Doing so has made for great competition and I think has lifted the play of, not only our team, but the other teams in the conference as well. We appreciate coach Lewis’ dedication to the golf program at Harlan County High School and know that his departure will be a major loss for us. Greg’s teams not only represented us well on and off the course, but they were also a reflection of his high moral character. We definitely wish coach Lewis all the success and happiness in his future endeavors.”
“I don’t know who will be chosen to follow me but I know there are great candidates interested in coming in. This team is young and set up to be extremely successful over the next several years. I am getting into the final few years of my teaching career and I still have some goals I want to accomplish there which won’t allow me the opportunity to coach,” Lewis said. “Plus, I will be 50 in a few years and I am going to take some time to focus on my own game and get ready to compete in some state and national amateur events.”
Farmer said the search would begin soon for the next HCHS coach and added he was optimistic about the future of the program with three of the conference’s top golfers returning.
“We are really excited about the future of our golf program as we have a lot of bright, young talent,” he said. “I anticipate the position to be posted soon in hopes of acquiring someone who wants to continue to build upon our recent success.”