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BROOKLINE, Massachusetts – Earlier this year, James Driscoll was taking shelter from the rain at a golf course in Florida. He struck up a conversation with the course marshal, who told Driscoll that he was the head of security at a local school but also thoroughly enjoyed coaching that school’s golf team.
During this conversation, Driscoll thought of his alma mater, Brookline High School, where he won multiple state championships and is now in the school’s athletics hall of fame.
“I was like, ‘I have to coach the Brookline High golf team,” said Driscoll, a former Mass Amateur champion (1996, 1998) and longtime member of Charles River Country Club.
The former junior standout turned professional in 2001 and played on the PGA TOUR in spans between 2005 and 2014. He has two professional wins, most recently at the 2016 Nashville Golf Open.
Now 43, Driscoll is still playing in professional events — he’ll try to qualify for the Houston Open next week — but when he’s back home in the Bay State, he’s been spending some time giving back as a volunteer assistant coach for the Brookline High School golf team.
“I’m happy to meet all these young kids who obviously have an interest in golf, and just help in any way that I can,” Driscoll said. “It’s really just a pleasure to kind of spend that time with them watch them swing, maybe give him a pointer or two. And it’s been as rewarding as I thought it might be.”
Since Brookline High was able to have a fall golf season, he asked head coach Burt Skvirsky if he could help out when he was home and work with the players, while still having the flexibility to play in qualifiers and tournaments. It was a resounding “yes.”
“I get kind of choked up because it is just such a nice thing for someone who is so successful to remember his roots,” Skvirsky said of Driscoll. “The kids love him. He comes every day, and he’s working with all kinds of different levels of kids, not just the best golfers but anybody that wants some help. He’s really really positive in his approach, stressing a lot of good hand-eye coordination, but also stretching, getting in shape, thinking positively and trying to set goals.”
Driscoll understands how a junior golfer’s game can transform during their high school years. He’s living proof.
During his freshman year, he shot over 100 in the sectional tournament. But over the next three years, he became a state champion and one of the best junior players in the country. In 1996, he became the youngest Mass Amateur champion at age 18 and later that year made the final match at the U.S. Junior Amateur.
One of the Brookline players he’s worked with is senior captain Mike Ford, who has also shown potential over the years. Ford shot a 110 at tryouts during his first year of high school. But this fall, playing alongside Driscoll, he shot a career-low 69 at the school’s home course at Brookline Golf Course, also known as Putterham. Ford will play for the NCAA Division III Drew University team next year.
But collectively, Driscoll said he’s most impressed by the players’ resiliency, even if they’re not having a great round.
“There are so many opportunities to get rattled but they’re doing a great job of keeping their composure and just enjoying themselves,” Driscoll said.
“A lot of them have a lot of talent,” he added. “Some of them don’t need really any coaching or, you know, just a little guidance and others just maybe need one little thing, but it’s just fun just to kind of hang out with the kids and try to try to give back a little bit.”
As for his future, Driscoll said he’s at a bit of a crossroads. As much as he still loves to compete with himself to see how well he can play, he’s left the door open to future career endeavors — perhaps as a coach.
“I literally go one day to wanting to be a farmer and the next day, wanting to get my PGA Tour card back, and then the next day wanted to be a teacher or like a golf teacher,” he said. “I will spend the next five years or whatever exploring those and just kind of seeing where it takes me. I don’t know when it’s going to show up or where it’s going to show up, but I honestly believe that my best golf is ahead of me.”