Playing the Game

Tami Olivares

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A major injury kept student Kyle Kuwahara from the sport he loved.

The 19-year-old Bakersfield College student has played baseball for most of his life.

In his last year at Garces High School, he broke his tibia and tore most of the ligaments surrounding it, he said. He spent four months in a wheelchair and hours enduring physical therapy.

Kuwahara did not let his injury set him back. He was still an athlete at heart. So he joined the BC men’s golf team.

“Injury kept me away from baseball, so I decided to play something else. Golf is more walking, which helps rehabilitate my left ankle,” he said.

The golf team started in February and is composed of 11 members. This is the first year it is coached by someone other than Bill Nelson, who retired after coaching BC golf for the last 27 years.

After his retirement, Nelson recommended Larry Cook, a BC alumnus who played on the only state championship team in 1979.

“This guy was perfect for the job,” Nelson said.

Cook and his players are new to team playing but each player has at least eight years experience.

“Golf is a process,” Cook said. “You couldn’t just pick up a club and make a team.”

Kenny Butler, 24, was discharged from the Navy in November. He said his access to golf was minimal, since there are no golf courses on Navy ships.

“I played maybe three times in the Navy, not much,” said Butler.

But Butler leads the team, scoring 77 in the last competition.

Cook said that the team has not been doing well this season but that was to be expected from fairly young players. He sees his team improving in the long run.

“My boys are privileged to play in Bakersfield. The weather is perfect and there are plenty of places to practice,” he said.

Golf remains a challenge, as some young players have experienced.

Aaron Falk was the leading high school champion in 2000. Falk is a member of the Santa Barbara Community College team and was in Bakersfield for the tournament. Even though he also attends the University of California at Santa Barbara, he doesn’t play for UCSB because he didn’t make the team.

“Golf could be a disappointment. I was shooting good scores all summer and then couldn’t pull if off,” he said.

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