CASTROVILLE—The North Monterey County High golf program doesn’t have a “feeder” system, which means a majority of participants start as raw beginners with little to no experience with the clubs.
But since 2012, the Condors’ boys and girls programs have finished no worse than second place in their respective league standings. This is largely because of 83-year-old skipper Clyde Folk.
The coach has led 13 different teams, and in that time he’s produced three league champions—two titles with the boys and one with the girls. NMC has also had 23 boys and 11 girls earn all-league honors in that time.
Folk, named the Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division Coach of the Year in 2020, announced his retirement last year after a medical condition forced him to step down as coach of both programs.
“This is more meaningful and more impactful than what I’d ever done in all my whole golf life,” said Folk about turning the Condors’ golf programs around. “My last 10 years were the most pleasing to me, making me feel so good about what I did in life, as respect to my quest for doing things in golf.”
NMC Assistant Principal Kristi Tripp said that Folk built and developed the golf program as they now know it. She praised him for finding golf courses for the team, fundraising to have custom bags made for the kids and hiring assistant coaches with valuable experience.
“He’s working with kids who never picked up a club in their life,” she said. “He took them from knowing nothing about golf to making all-league. He’s a pretty amazing person and we’ve been very grateful.”
Tripp, who served as athletic director for the past three years, said she built a special relationship with Folk.
“He always was just forward-thinking, progressive and never gave up on anybody,” she said. “He didn’t need anything from me, I gained from him. Just being around him has been a joy.”
Folk was 14 when he was introduced to golf in 1952 as a country club caddie. Sixty-eight years later he accomplished a career as a player, organizer, rules expert, coach and teacher.
Prior to that, Folk joined the United States Army where he was appointed to extra duty as tournament chairman of the Commander’s Golf Council at every assigned station.
“The recognition and admiration I received for my demonstrated tournament planning and execution resulted in numerous selections to special career-enhancing projects,” said Folk in a letter he wrote to the school.
Folk, who graduated with a chemical engineering degree from Ohio State, has experienced hundreds of golf courses all over the world from Germany to Vietnam. He also became acquainted with thousands of people and watched golf inspire them.
Folk joined NMC in 2010 during his 11th, and final, year on the CSU Monterey Bay men and women’s golf coaching staff.
At the time, Roger O’Sullivan was the high school’s athletic director. Both of them initiated an effort to reinvigorate golf interest to the students.
“I just wanted to pass on the experience of being exposed to golf,” he said.
Folk started a two-pronged program to help four returning golfers become more skilled. He also encouraged others that were curious to join the team. The program advertised to students and parents that “no out-of-pocket expense” was required to participate.
Folk said NMC has been considered an orphan program as it continues to be one of the lone schools in three regional counties without a home golf course. But he managed to pull some strings and connect with some of the contacts he made during 40 years of working in the Monterey golf industry.
“The result has been our students’ opportunity to experience numerous great local golf courses,” he said.
The First Tee of Monterey County provided golf equipment for players, a place to practice and assisted Folk with additional instructional help. Folk also had assistance from families of coaches, students, alumni and friends who volunteered time to fundraise for the program’s expenses at Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula races and the Sea Otter Classic.
Ramon Gomez, 51, began volunteering six years ago for the school’s softball program and Folk’s efforts to raise funds for the golf programs.
He said that Folk was instrumental in getting kids involved with First Tee of Monterey County and raising money through the work he was doing at the WeatherTeach Raceway Laguna Seca.
“He wanted to make it affordable, inexpensive and accessible to other kids there at North [Monterey] County High School,” Gomez said.
Gomez’s daughter, Danica, was on the golf team during her freshman and sophomore years. Folk took several students to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Danica was paired up with professional golfers.
Gomez mentioned that Folk has been a huge role model for both the students and parents, who got a chance to see him work well into his late ’80s.
“He’s going out there and he’s giving his entire life, which is something that we all want to emulate and do for our communities as he did for us,” Gomez said.
Juan Reyes can be reached at [email protected]