As golfers gather around the tee box on the first hole of the Black Mountain Golf Course on Tuesday, March 22, coach Tim Raines is speaking in a whisper. His quiet demeanor is in sharp contrast to the myriad of expressions on his face just weeks ago as he patrolled the sidelines for the Warlassies basketball team.
But as he enters his second season at the helm of the Warhorse golf team Raines has more than his fair share of experience to draw from when making the transition from rowdy winters in the gym to the hushed tones of spring on the course.
As a freshman at Owen High School in the 1970s, Raines tried out for the golf team, then coached by current University of North Carolina Tar Heels coach Roy Williams. Raines didn’t make the team.
“But I played my sophomore and junior year for Coach Williams,” he said, “and of course I played basketball in his program my freshman, sophomore and junior year.”
Although Williams left Owen in 1978 to join the coaching staff of legendary Tarheels coach Dean Smith, he made an impression on many Swannanoa Valley students at Owen, including Raines.
When Raines became coach at the school, he didn’t follow directly in the footsteps of Williams. He coached - and continues to coach - the Warlassies basketball team. He spent 24 years on the football staff of former Warhorse coach Kenny Ford. For nearly two decades, Raines was also head coach of the junior varsity team, a run that concluded last season.
“I’m not as young as I used to be and it was getting harder and harder on me,” he said.
Raines closed the football chapter of his life, but his desire to coach two sports at the school remained strong. He agreed to coach the junior varsity football team last season for the final time. And he asked to fill the vacancy on the golf team.
“I really enjoyed my time playing golf in high school,” he said. “I would be pretty much exhausted, physically and mentally, after football and basketball season. Golf was always such a wonderful change. Not that it’s not also draining in its own way, but it’s just a different kind of competitiveness.”
Raines’ experience in the ultra-competitive world of team sports makes him uniquely suited to lead the young Warhorse golf team back to prominence.
“In the mid-to-late ’70s we had a pretty good team with guys that could consistently shoot in the mid to low 80s and some even as low as the 70s,” he said. “And when coach John Knight came along he had some great teams too. It’s been a great program, and I’d like to see that continue.”
This year’s team is a young one, according to Raines, and is led by sophomores Garrett Miller and Lucas Adams.
“Last year as a freshman Lucas played the number 1 seed for us quite a bit,” Raines said. “That put a lot of pressure on him, and he responded in a big way. And he’s even playing better this year.”
The Warhorses finished third in the Western Highlands Conference last season. But the addition of Miller should improve the team this year, the coach believes.
“Garrett played in middle school and was gone last year, but he came back to us this year,” Raines said. “And having guys like Lucas and the other guys to play against in practice has really helped him and everybody else raise their level of play.”
In their first tournament of the season, they finished first over other conference teams.
“Golf is just like any other sport,” Raines said. “It’s an individual sport, but we still want to go out and win when we go out there. Especially on our home course.”
The home victory was the first for the team this year, but Raines believes that beating perennial conference contender Avery by nine strokes provides a glimpse of what the team is capable of.
“We’re almost at the halfway point of our conference season, and I full expect these guys to compete for a conference championship,” he said. “We should definitely be able to compete for the 2-A side of our split conference. But I also think we can compete for the overall conference title.”