Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s FireLake Golf Course is a great place to learn the sport. Its amenities include a driving range for working on long shots as well as a three-tier putting green and a chipping area with sand bunkers for perfecting short game.
The Tecumseh High School athletic department approached course director Chris Chesser in 1997 about allowing their recently founded golf team to use the facilities. It is the only public course in the area surrounding Shawnee, Oklahoma. Coach Chad Trahan says the opportunity has helped the team expand.
“There are other programs that have to pay a certain amount to use the facilities, and FireLake has opened up their course for no charge,” Trahan said. “And with some of our kids, they wouldn’t be able to play and learn the game of golf if they had to pay something for the facility.”
Chesser occasionally assists Trahan with coaching. Both are grateful to Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett and Vice Chairman Linda Capps for their show of support.
Students bring their own clubs and practice weekday afternoons when the weather is nice — 10 boys and four girls complete the team. They train on the course only when they are able to do so without interfering with paying customers’ rounds. Last summer, FireLake reopened following a complete renovation, and the improved greens present new training opportunities.
“They love to be able to go to a nice golf course and have the luxuries of getting the chance to play golf,” Trahan said.
Many of the athletes join the team with no experience. They learn a proper grip, how to swing the club and hit various types of shots. Trahan focuses on the regulations, as the golfers score themselves and track their progress.
“It’s great that we get to teach kids that it’s important to count every shot and play by the rules,” he said. “And it’s really a game of integrity, and it’s great to teach kids how to do it the right way.”
Since Trahan began coaching four years ago, at least one Tecumseh High School member has qualified for the state tournament each year. In 2015, two qualified. Trahan said training them is rewarding.
“It’s always great to see success, and really, each kid is competing against themselves,” he said. “If they shoot 120, and then you see them drop to 110 — see their improvement, and see them excited about their improvement — that’s always fun.”
The team also attracts visitors by hosting the Tecumseh Boys Invitational and Tecumseh Girls Invitational at FireLake each spring.
“It gets you a lot of publicity, and it gets you people out here that have never been here before and their parents. Parents always follow their kids, and usually the parents are golfers,” Chesser said. “So it’s good for us, and it’s good for Tecumseh.”
Several of the customers often donate used balls to the school’s program. They collect them as they complete the holes and end up with 50 to 100 they pass on for practice.
“Our kids just love it,” Trahan said. “FireLake Golf Course has been nothing but kind to us.”