Vona Imparts Knowledge On Jayhawk Golfers

Vona Imparts Knowledge On Jayhawk Golfers

Article copied from Jamestown Post Journal (http://www.post-journal.com/sports/local-sports/2018/06/vona-imparts-knowledge-on-jayhawk-golfers/)

About six months ago, Dan Vona decided to answer an online posting from Jamestown Community College, which was in need of a golf coach for the spring season.

"It was just a shot in the dark, honestly," the Fredonia resident said Tuesday afternoon as he stood near the range at Chautauqua Golf Club following the first round of the NJCAA Division III National Championships. "It was right down the road. I didn't know what I was getting into."

But Vona met with Jamestown CC athletic director Keith Martin and was ultimately hired to take over the program.

"It was kind of neat," he said.

How neat has it been since?

Well, as he walked the Lake Course yesterday, Vona could be seen not only serving as coach of the three Jayhawks in the field, but he was also their friend, confidante and psychologist as they made their way around the 6,559-yard layout.

For the record, Anthony Miller had a fine opening round, shooting a 6-over 78, good for a ninth-place tie; Dillan LaBarbera turned in an 84; and Nick Mole had a 98.

"I would sum it up as they are all a great bunch of kids," he said. "It's been a good springboard season."

Vona knows a thing or two about reaching new heights.

Growing up in Silver Creek, Vona's golf resume was full to overflowing from a young age. He won the 1985 New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship and the 1987 Buffalo District individual title. He also was a runner-up for the International Junior Masters, and a Porter Cup participant in 1989.

Heck, during his tenure in American Junior Golf Association tournaments, he played against the likes of Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and David Duval.

"I was very fortunate," Vona said. "My dad put me on a plane (and said), 'You're going there and staying with a host family. … AJGA was like the breeding ground and it gave me the competitive juice to go on to tournaments and college."

After attending junior college in Florida, Vona transferred to Penn State University, which was then a member of the Atlantic 10.

"It was a great experience," Vona said. "I fit into that program. I was able to play every match and we had a good bunch of guys. We were able to push each other."

While in Happy Valley, he won the James Madison (Virginia) University tournament at Kingsmill Resort, placed in the top 10 several times, and earned a PGA Class A certification. He eventually worked for 15 years at Marriott Golf Operation, and was the head golf professional and/or general manager at numerous resorts and country clubs in Florida and Georgia.

But his love of teaching the game never left him. Eight years ago, he returned to Chautauqua County, did some substitute teaching at his high school in Silver Creek, coached junior varsity basketball there and also is a spin instructor and teaches golf at a Dunkirk driving range.

"Getting out of the golf business and doing this (at Jamestown CC) is getting back to my juices of college competitiveness and coaching," Vona said. "I love coaching, and being with these kids is great. … It's a weird full circle in life. I went away and came back."

The current and future Jayhawks appear to be the beneficiaries.

"They're going to get, first of all, a good experience," Vona said. "They're going to get life lessons, taking what I can teach them in life and relate it to golf. Building relationships is huge. I've lived it. I've had the good, the bad and the ugly."

Vona is 49 and although he graduated from Penn State in 1993, he still maintains a connection with the golf program. With that in mind, the former Nittany Lion would like to do fundraising with his Jamestown CC players so that they could make annual trips to his alma mater.

"I want to set a standard," he said.

Vona appears to be on his way to doing just that.