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The City Journals

Former PGA caddy coaches Brighton girls to a fourth-place finish

May 30, 2017 05:06PM ● By Koster Kennard

Brighton girls varsity golf team gathers for a photo. (Clark Garso/ Brighton High School)

By Koster Kennard | [email protected]
In the spring of 2016, Evan Byers walked up to Clark Garso at one of Byers’ daughter’s golf tournaments in West Valley. Though the two had known each other for years, Garso didn’t recognize Byers because of the toll that a skin cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma was taking on his body.
“I was like wow, that guy looks like death warmed over,” Garso said. “I hadn’t seen him for probably 15 or 20 years and I saw him last year trying to fight this cancer and I was like wow this poor guy looks like he’s glad to be alive.”
That year, Byers’ daughter, Lexie, told her golf team about her dad’s struggle with cancer and the team wrote his initials on their calves and wore wristbands to support him.
During his two-year bout with cancer, Byers went through chemo twice and had a stem-cell bone marrow transplant on June 8, 2016. After the transplant, Byers was cancer free and able to function like he had before cancer ravaged his body.
“It was a battle, you know, but there’s a reason behind everything,” Byers said. “I don’t want to sound cliché, but there’s definitely a reason behind everything.”
Soon after getting healthy, Byers was hired to coach Brighton’s girls golf team. Byers called Garso, who had also applied for the job and whose daughter was going to play on the team.
“I showed up and he looked fantastic,” Garso said. “Obviously, I’ve seen him a little bit better, but, all and all, he’s fought through it incredibly well.”
Byers has spent most of his life around golf, including working as a caddy on the PGA tour.
“I caddied on the champions tour for roughly three seasons. I was successful — I won seven times as a caddy,” Byers said. “So, I learned the inside of the game there.”
Byers has a vast resume of golfing experience.
“I’ve had the chance to work on PGA Tour, so I had a chance to hang around the best teachers in the world and the best players,” Byers said. “I started working with Tiger Woods when he was 17 years old. I’ve hung around with Ernie Els. I’ve seen Butch Harmon work with players, and David Leadbetter, and I had guys like Ben Crenshaw early on when I was working out on tour that would give me tips. But I’ve always enjoyed the fundamentals of the golf swing.”
The coach’s golf experience includes working as a PGA Tour rep for Callaway Golf, managing the PGA Tour’s Utah Championship in Salt Lake City and running a major championship on NBC Sports called JELD-WEN.
Currently, Byers runs a golf cart company called Premier Golf Cars that reconditions, refurbishes and tricks out golf carts.
In his first year coaching, Byers led Brighton to a fourth-place finish. It was the first time in the school’s history that the girls golf team finished in the top five.
Senior Captain Elizabeth Walker said their goal was to be a top five team and that each member of the team shot well to make it happen.
The team had six girls who qualified for state: Elizabeth Walker (senior), Madison McQuivey (freshman), Kyla Hoster (sophomore), Georgia Raddon (senior), Meg Roberts (junior) and Lexi Byers (junior).
Walker finished 12th, Byers 15th, McQuivey 40th, Hoster 47th, Raddon 54th and Roberts 63rd.
“We put six girls together and it’s the first time Brighton has had a girls golf team that has finished in the top five,” said Evan. “So they played good. I’m very pleased with all of them and their progress throughout the season.”
Garso said he told Byers on the way home from the state tournament that after going from 10th place in the previous season to fourth place this season that he had a case for coach of the year.
Walker said one thing that helped them be more successful than in previous years was that the coaches made sure the players got better every practice.
Byers said he and his coaching staff focused on teaching their team proper technique.
“I think, at times, people get too caught up in gadgets and different types of quick fixes and yet, quite often, it just comes right down to the fundamentals,” Byers said.
Another thing Byers taught his golfers was managing their play differently based on the course they were playing.
“One of the things I personally take pride in is being able to teach the girls how to think around the golf course. If you get yourself in trouble let’s get you out of trouble and then we can move on.”
Byers said managing their way around the course was one of the things that made his players excel in the state tournament.
“Even though our girls probably weren’t as good as some of the girls that they beat, they beat them because they were able to manage the golf course a little bit better,” Byers said.
Though golf is generally seen as an individual sport, Byers said the team aspect of the sport is important and that his girls played well as a team this year.
“(I enjoyed seeing) the girls jell the way that they did and seeing the support that they gave even the JV girls throughout the season,” said Byers. “I think the neat thing is that there were 15 girls that are different ages all from Brighton High School, but when the season was all said and done they were 15 friends. They weren’t just 15 golfers.”
Byers said coaching high school was more difficult than he anticipated and that he really respects what teachers do, especially those who coach at the same time.
“I take my hat off to the school teachers that make a difference every day for those future adults.
All we can do is try to make an impact one way or another,” said Byers. “I guess my impact is teaching them the great game of golf and all it stands for. I’ve enjoyed that part of it.”
“I’m very blessed to get this opportunity to coach these girls,” Byers said. “This is a gift. It’s been a gift and a highlight of beating cancer other than just being alive. Working with the girls and teaching them the great game and being associated with parents and being associated with school and the teachers. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a real treat.”