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August 13, 2008

 

Hughes takes Purple Tigers’ reins

By TANEY BEAUMONT
Staff Writer

Yale Hughes is the new golf coach at Cortland High School.
Hughes teaches physical education at Randall School, coaches Cortland’s junior varsity boys’ basketball squad and has also coached the Purple Tigers’ junior high baseball team. He replaces Kevin Cafararo, who vacated the golf position after he was named the principal at Cortland Junior High School last month.
In 14 seasons as golf coach at CHS, Cafararo compiled a 176-25 record with six league championships and one Section 3 championship. The Purple Tigers won the Section 3 Class B-1 title last spring by 16 strokes over four-time defending champion New Hartford at Radisson Greens.
The Purple Tigers head into this fall’s schedule with a 32-match winning streak, including a 13-0 record last season (8-0 in the OHSL Freedom National Division). Since the sport moved from spring to fall for larger Section 3 schools in 2005, CHS has gone 45-1. The lone loss was actually a tie with Syracuse CBA in 2005 that was decided by matching the cards of the teams’ sixth men.
Cortland native Hughes, 48, was an assistant coach last season and in fact led the team to four wins in the absence of Cafararo.  He has been involved with the game of golf for 38 years, and was an assistant pro at Lakeshore Yacht & Country Club in Cicero from 1984-86. He currently works with both the Elm Tree Junior League and the Willowbrook Junior Clinic.
“This is a dream job,” Hughes said. “Golf is a passion of mine. I grew up on a golf course, and I was very fortunate to be an assistant last year. I was in the right place at the right time. It’s exciting to take over a program such as this. It’s like taking over for John Wooden at UCLA.
“The only downer is that, because of sectionals, I won’t be able to coach baseball due to golf sectionals being in the spring. But I considered everything, and the positives outweighed the negatives.”  
Cortland lost two players, Nick Decker and Steve Stowell, to graduation last June but will return a good group of talented players. “We’ll have a solid nucleus,” Hughes said. “We might lose a match; eventually we’re going to, and I’m sure I’ll be coaching when it happens. But life goes on. I’m not too worried about it.”
The Purple Tigers open the 2008 season by visiting Tully at Vesper Hills Golf Club in an 11 a.m. start Aug. 26.
“The most difficult part about switching careers was that I had to leave that team,” said Cafararo, who was also an English teacher in the Cortland district for 19 years prior to accepting his new position. “It was a privilege and an honor to work with those kids. I had excellent athletes and great students. Bottom line, they were great kids, which made coaching quite a pleasure.
“One key to our success was being hands-off,” he added. “Kids were good golfers when they came to the program, so it wasn’t teaching the game as much as it was course maintenance and attitude. It wasn’t as grueling as coaching football or basketball, where you’re running plays in all the time. I let the kids know that they were in it for a team goal, that they had to play for one another. I treated them the best I could, let them know I supported them and tried to stay out of their way.”
In looking back over his time as the Cortland golf coach, Cafararo was quick to identify the highlight. “It was the sectional title (last May),” he said, “simply because we’d had groups of kids that had been close several years in a row and had had some adversity the last couple years, with kids unable to play for various reasons.
“This past season everything came to a head; the kids played really well, and as another highlight we were able to send Matt Porter to the state tournament. In all, we had three players make it there in my time as coach.”
Porter was also a state meet participant in 2005, while Scott Comfort made the state meet in 2001.