Three very different seniors are set to lead this year’s Vance golf team.
Anthony Bondi is a 6-foot, 175-pound bomber of the golf ball. He’s the returning No. 1 from last year’s squad, the team’s only four-year letter winner, and a leader by example.
Allen Harris stands 2 inches shorter than Bondi and is about 30 pounds lighter, but when it comes time to be vocal, he’s the one that tends to speak up.
Harris transferred to Vance prior to last season from Phillip O. Berry Academy and edged out his older brother, Jeffrey, by one point for the Cougars’ top scoring average last season.
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Then there’s the 6-foot-4, 180-pound Torin Dorn. You may have seen his name before, but probably not in a story about the golf team.
On the school’s basketball team, Dorn averaged about 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per game for the Cougars this past season and has already committed to play basketball for UNC Charlotte.
The Cougars’ No. 3 golfer joined the team last season, after playing over the summer with his father and a friend.
“For a self-taught kid, Torin has one of the most beautiful golf swings you’ll ever see,” said Vance golf coach Gerald Smith. “Because of basketball, he’s not able to make it to all of our meets, but you can tell he really enjoys the game.”
Dorn is a leader on the golf team because he’s succeeded so much on the basketball court. The kids on the team look up to him because he’s shown over the years that he knows how to perform under pressure.
The blending of three seemingly different senior leaders on this year’s team is something Smith has enjoyed watching.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys,” he said. “Three totally different personalities, and they all have their own style of leadership and it all comes together well.”
Smith’s seniors have become even more important to him as his health has declined.
Playing years of basketball in high school and at Liberty University left the 49-year old with two bad knees.
In search of relief, Smith turned to lubrication injections at the beginning of last season. They seemed to help at first.
However, several hours after one of his injections, the pain had increased. By 3 p.m. Smith – who also teaches a business class at Vance – was off his feet and heading home to rest. By 6 p.m., things had gotten so bad that he picked up the phone and asked his girlfriend to bring him to the hospital.
It took doctors several days to pinpoint what had gone wrong, eventually diagnosing Smith with a rare type of staph infection in his knee.
“The doctors said that if I had waited a few more days I could have easily wound up dead,” said Smith, who had to miss the next six weeks of teaching and coaching.
He still can’t make the full twisting motion required to swing a golf club and relies on pain patches to help him through each day. But instead of relinquishing his coaching duties, Smith’s gotten creative.
“What (Smith) likes to do a lot is use Allen or myself as examples of how to swing the club for the new guys on the team,” said Bondi. “He has us swing and shows both us and the younger guys what’s correct and how to perform that. He’ll also point out any flaws in our swings, which has really helped.”
The Cougars, who practice and play their home meets at the Tradition Golf Course (which allows them – as well as the members of the Hopewell and Mallard Creek golf teams – to play for free), are set to begin their season March 11 at Pine Island Country Club in Charlotte.