Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
WHITEHALL – A 50-year passion for Greg Boughton comes down to two days.
After Boughton coaches Whitehall’s girls golf team at the Division 3 state finals today and Saturday at Michigan State University’s Forest Akers West, it will mark the end of a half-century of mentoring, stewardship and fostering relationships with the young people in his Vikings boys and girls programs.
Boughton has coached boys golf at Whitehall for 50 years, which in the belief of recently retired athletic director Greg Russell, would make Boughton the first 50-year coach in the West Michigan Conference’s 89-year history.
This is Boughton’s seven season at the helm of the Vikings’ girls program. Bill Borgman, who will take over both of Whitehall’s golf programs, has been Boughton’s right-hand man all seven years with the girls team and for 25 years with the boys squad.
“I’ve enjoyed it. Good kids, good kids,” Boughton said earlier this week during a practice at White Lake Golf Club, the Vikings’ home course, where Borgman has been club pro for 25 years.
“Always looking forward to the next season and trying to teach good skills, and Whitehall’s a great community. They’ve been very accepting of me and my family for all these years – we grew up here with them.”
Boughton, who turned 73 last Sunday, arrived in Whitehall in 1972, six years after he graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School. He and wife Deryl raised their family in Whitehall, where children Melissa and Steve attended school.
Greg and Deryl Boughton will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next summer. Boughton smiled when he said he golfed on his wedding day, squeezing in 18 holes in the morning with his “entourage.”
Recently, a ceremony was held at White Lake Golf Club honoring his 50 years with the Whitehall golf program, which has been an extension of family to Boughton.
“We call Bill our uncle; we call Boughton our grandpa,” Vikings senior Lacey Herbert said with a laugh. “It’s a family dynamic: Uncle Bill and Grandpa Boughton.
“The way that (Boughton) coaches all the girls, especially girls like Karli (VanDuinen, the Vikings’ No. 1 player), who have been doing this since they were a little kid and they’re really good and then for all our newbies, it’s great to see that there’s someone who will take the time with anyone. He’s just all-around a really nice guy.”
With Boughton’s knack for connecting with people, plus Borgman’s ability to teach the mechanics of the golf swing and course management, they have made a good team.
This is the fifth time in their seven years coaching the Whitehall girls program together that the Vikings have qualified for the state finals. Borgman believes that VanDuinen has a good shot at contending for the individual state championship this weekend.
Borgman said that Boughton handles the administrative side of things, but he possesses soft skills that enable him to build a good rapport with people.
“He can get along with (the players) and joke with them and talk teen talk, if you will,” Borgman said with a chuckle.
Boughton said he will continue to help out the Whitehall golf programs when needed.
Otherwise, he intends on spending more time with family and pursuing interests he has not been able to do in the past because of his coaching responsibilities, such as going on a fall color tour with his wife or taking a cruise in the spring.
And, of course, he plans to “play golf,” he quipped.
Boughton knows it will feel strange when the state finals tournament is over this weekend and that marks the official end to his long and memory-filled coaching career.
“I told Bill, ‘You’re going to have to drive home, I’ll be crying my eyes out,’” Boughton said. “But I don’t think so – I’m not leaving here. I’ll be around to help out.”
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