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Morton returns as Bears coach

To find its new boys golf coach, Central High went after its old golf coach.

Gary Morton, who spent five years coaching the Bears golf team and also coached swimming before stepping down two years ago, will begin a second stint this fall.

Central needed a new coach because golf is moving from the spring to the fall this school year, and Jim Widener, who has coached the boys team the past two seasons, already is busy with junior varsity football. For Morton, this season will reunite him with a group of seniors he last coached as freshmen in 1997.

"It's kind of interesting to get to work with some of the kids again," Morton said Friday. "I knew them as freshmen, and all of a sudden they're bigger and better and hitting the ball much farther."

Central had no seniors last spring, and returns two all-Gulf Coast Athletic Conference selections in sophomore Steven Andrade and senior Brad Strat, who learned from Morton as a freshman and is looking forward to more of the same this fall.

"It's going to be exciting," Strat said. "It's nice to have him back."

School starts Wednesday at Central, and practice won't begin for the Bears until Aug. 23, but Morton said he's busy finalizing the schedule. There are advantages and disadvantages to the move to the fall season, he said, but he'll make the most of what he has this year.

"It's an advantage in that the courses aren't as heavily played in the fall and it should be a little cooler," he said. "There are a lot of golf coaches that coached other sports in the fall, so that was a disadvantage to making the switch."

Had Morton, who teaches history and social studies at Central, not stopped coaching two years ago, he would have run into the same problem with swimming and golf, but now the same shift brings him back to golf. He stepped down two years ago to "devote more time to other things," but said he was flattered when he was approached about returning.

"It's always nice to have people asking if you'd consider doing something," he said. "I thought about it and decided I wanted to do it again. You miss the kids a lot, and coaching gives you a special relationship you don't always have between teachers and students."