Escalon High School Golf Coach Rusty Fachner – who has led both the boys and girls teams to multiple winning seasons, league and section honors – has been honored himself, presented with the “Ambassador Award” by the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the Northern California PGA. Fachner was named the 2014 recipient and recently was feted at the annual chapter meeting hosted at Brookside Country Club in Stockton.
The San Joaquin Valley Chapter extends from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Coastal Range, and from just south of Sacramento to just north of Bakersfield.
The Ambassador Award is given to a person who has helped the PGA to advance the game of golf, specifically with young people.
“It was designed to acknowledge those individuals who have gone ‘above and beyond’ in promoting golf and helping to grow the sport,” Fachner said, noting that he was both thrilled and humbled by the comments made regarding his contributions.
“I was cited for my integrity, my positive coaching style and the impact that I have had on players of my teams and the players of other teams, and the sport in general,” he said.
Fachner said he was nominated for the award on several fronts, both at the professional and personal levels.
“I was nominated by Shelley O’Keefe, a PGA instructor at Spring Creek Country Club. Shelley does an incredible job as an instructor and was also recognized as the Junior Golf - Professional of the Year for her work with young people in our area,” Fachner pointed out. “In addition to Shelley, nominations were also submitted by players, parents, and coaches. The cool part is that they just weren’t Escalon kids submitting my name for nomination, but kids from opposing schools as well. I’m really appreciative of those nominations.”
Also a teacher at the high school, Fachner has been involved with golf, both as a player and coach, for the past nine years.
“Before that I merely played one or two rounds per year,” he said. “One of the best choices I ever made was getting deeply involved in golf.”
EHS senior Molly Landon – a four year player and standout for the girls team – and her mom Gretchen, who also were among those nominating Fachner for the honor, couldn’t agree more that he made the right choice when he started his golf coaching career.
“It’s super exciting that the PGA wanted to recognize him,” Gretchen Landon said. “Shelley was our resource (for nominating Fachner) and helped us.”
For his part, Fachner said it is the students that make coaching a worthwhile endeavor.
“Golf is great sport for watching kids grow as athletes and individuals. Golf is great for teaching not only a skill and how to compete, but also about individual integrity, discipline and sportsmanship,” he said. “Golf is a sport that is fun to coach. There is no yelling or screaming, you’re working with great kids, you play it outside in a beautiful setting and it’s still very competitive. You can’t ask for more than that.”
Fachner said he learned of his selection for the award while – appropriately – he was on the golf course.
“I was on the 16th hole and my game kind of went south over the last three holes…too bad, I was playing well,” he said, chuckling. “The enormity of the moment kind of took away my focus. I kept thinking, ‘I’m being recognized by the PGA, the top people in the sport I coach.’ They were recognizing me for my efforts. It’s like being a football coach and being recognized by the NFL or a basketball coach being recognized by the NBA. This is the highest level in my sport. It’s pretty special.”
Fachner will be retiring from teaching this year but said he isn’t ready yet to leave coaching entirely.
“I can’t totally walk away from the kids. I plan on coaching the boys for a while yet. I’m letting the girls program go, but not the boys,” he said. “I’ll still be helping out with both programs, however. I have to be involved somehow.”