Berry Hired As New Golf Coach
8/1/2014 8:12:37 a.m. - Hobbs, NM. (Story by Clayton Jones, Hobbs News-Sun)
New Mexico Junior College hired its first new men’s golf coach in 23 years as the NMJC Board of Directors unanimously approved James Berry as its new coach last week.
Berry takes over for long-time coach James Black, who had coached the men’s program since 1991. The Lovington graduate led the T-Birds to 17 national tournaments in 23 years, a national runner-up finish in 2009 (the team tied for the title but lost in a playoff) and Black was inducted into the NJCAA Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. Berry, who will also be a professor for the NMJC physical education department, said taking over for such an established coach will be a challenge – something he looks forward to.
“I can make the analogy that it’s like taking over the Duke job for Coach K,” Berry said. “Coach Black was here forever and did a great job. It’s great to come into a job with expectations. Not only for me, but because I can get talent because they see NMJC as a great place to go golf because of what they’ve done in the past.
“For me, I’ve just got to continue this tradition. I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is a great place to develop what we already have.”
Berry is a 2013 graduate of Colorado State University-Pueblo where he was an All-Rocky Mountain Conference golfer and also an Academic All-American. Berry, who is 35, returned to school at 30 after turning professional at 19.
Last year Berry returned to professional play with the All-American Gateway Tour before deciding he wanted to go into coaching and teaching.
“That experience was good so I could tell guys what it is like and what they have to be prepared for in a situation like that,” Berry said. “You really need to have the entire infrastructure of your life in place to be playing against guys that have it in place. Those mini tours you have to pay to play ... I was grinding out there and when I made a bogey, I’m thinking, ‘Did that just cost me some peanut butter?’ Of course as a golfer I feel like I can still do it, but I felt like it was a time to make a change in my life.
“This is a perfect chance for me because it has two things going for it. I’m a strength and conditioning coach – and that’s a big thing for me – and this is a place I can do that while also coaching golf. It’s a perfect place for me.” NMJC athletic director Jeremy Capo said with Berry recently finishing school combined with his experience in both college and pro golf, he’ll be able to identify with the players well.
‘What is so special about James is he has an ability to connect with the students athletically and academically,” Capo said. “It’s so fresh to him.... He knows the trials they face Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. One of our top goals is to graduate our athletes and we have a great opportunity to do that with the way he can relate to them.”
Berry takes over a team that finished ranked 18th in the NJCAA according to golfstat.com. He said he has five players in place (including Hobbs grad Braden Ray) and is recruiting a sixth at this time.
“We are trying to get a guy to come down here that is having some issues getting released from a (NCAA Division II school,” Berry said. “... If I can get him down here we would have a great chance of competing nationally. If I can’t, we’ll see what happens in the spring. We don’t have any depth. We just have the five guys. They can play but if one guy gets in trouble and I don’t have anybody on the bench that could be an issue. ...
“But I fully expect to compete. I know it’s my first year but that’s not an excuse to have a down year. I fully expect us to be right there in the spring.”