Coach Cecil

Leading state champions

Behind every great team is a great coach. Although playing golf has been a big part of Coach Cecil Woods’ life, coaching uncovered a whole new aspect of the game. Throughout his 30-year long golf career, he has built a legacy that he continues to pass on to his players.

Woods’ involvement in golf did not start until he graduated from college. Many of his friends played golf, and he decided to join the trend. It was the only sport simple enough to play while juggling a job and kids.

“Convenience is what got me into golf, but it was the competition of seeing how good I could get that got me into continuing to practice and play hard,” Woods said. “You must take your time when it comes to golf. In most of the other sports, everything is quick, fast, hard. In golf, when the adrenaline starts pumping, you must slow down and concentrate even more. That’s the biggest difference between golf and other sports, and that’s one of the many things I love about golf.”

Over time, the sport evolved into more than just a hobby. After doing well in major tournaments including the Toyota Golf Skills Challenge, Woods caught the eye of scouts who invited him to try out for the Honduras National Team. Eventually, he was recruited and has represented his country for the last eight years.

“It’s wonderful to play for the national team. It has changed my life and has definitely made me a better golfer. For me, the experience has been great because it’s given me the opportunity to travel all over Central and South America while playing golf and winning a few tournaments for my country,” Woods said.

At first, Woods turned down the opportunity to coach the Walnut boys’ golf team because his children were still in high school, but he later accepted the job offer in 2010. The next year, he started the girls’ golf program at Walnut High School and has dedicated the last six years of his life to building it into the success it is today. Girls’ golf are four-time consecutive Hacienda League Champions, two-time CIF Section Champions and 2016 CIF State Champions.

“Coach has truly impacted our team. He does everything to make the team work and always encourages each player to work harder and be the best they can be. We are a really young team, and we wouldn’t be near where we are today if it wasn’t for him,” senior Catherine Yu said. “Personally, when I’m not playing well, he gives me reassurance and gives me a chance to redeem myself. That really helps boost my confidence during games.”

While coaching, Woods focuses on both the physical and mental part of the game. He emphasizes technique and swing, while also teaching the importance of course management, which consists of strategically mapping out where to place shots. He is careful not to overcoach or push his players too hard.

“It’s very important to be able to adapt to each individual player and their style as a coach. However, you never [want to lose] hard work and perseverance because those qualities are the core to success,” Woods said. “By doing that, I’ve been able to see my players improve. That feeling is so rewarding.”

To Woods, losing the CIF state championships with the girls’ team in 2015 served as a constant reminder to keep moving forward. Long practices and hours of hard work finally led to a 2016 State CIF Championship win for girls’ golf.

“I felt great for the girls. It was great seeing them finally achieve what they have been preparing for. The girls are very self-motivated, but I had to push them a little to keep their eyes on the goal,” Woods said. “Once we finished second, I kept on reminding them that they don’t want to have that same feeling again––that feeling of almost making it but falling short. That was one of our main reasons and motivations to work hard over the summer because the championships weren’t won the day that we played. They were won the year before when we first started practicing for it.”

Woods was named Tribune Coach of the Year for the third time this year because of his success with girls’ golf. Recently, he was also awarded the Southern California Coach of the Year award.

“[Winning Coach of the Year was] definitely a big honor, but I couldn’t do it without my kids. They taught me to be more patient, and that helped me improve as a coach and a golfer. The better your kids, the better coach you are,” Woods said.

Along with earning individual accolades, Woods also looks forward to improving the school and team’s success. His main goal for the next season is to maintain the level of caliber that previous teams have set, and eventually win back-to-back CIF championships this year.

“Getting [consecutive CIF championships] really solidifies your school and your team as great. I would literally jump for joy. It’s a huge accomplishment,” Woods said. “All I can hope as a coach is that I’ve got them prepared to play, and at the end of the day, it all comes down to hard work and preparation.”

By Sarah Aie, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Coach Cecil Woods