David Ward began his coaching career in Flint, Michigan, with no thought of ending that career in League City, Texas, as the first, thus far only, and celebrated coach of a growing and improving golf program.
Nine years in the making, the Clear Falls Knights made their first appearance in the University Intercollegiate League Class 6A state tournament less than one month ago.
“Give em’ some heaven today” appears at the close of his emails. He takes ownership of but does not claim authorship for the mantra. It sums up his approach to life, love, teaching and coaching.
Ward is retired, yet far from retiring. As long as there is a Fellowship of Christian Athletes; as long as there is someone in need; as long as he can somehow give someone a little heaven, Ward will be on the job. He describes his life as a “journey of faith,” and his work as a mission with which and by which he has been blessed.
An all-state basketball player at Gladwin High School (Michigan), Ward also played baseball (all-conference pitcher), and as quarterback (all-conference) led his football team to a conference championship. He was also one-fourth of a 4x100 sprint relay team that finished sixth in the state his senior year.
After playing basketball for one year at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ward’s desire to play two sports led him to transfer to Hillsdale College (Michigan) for two years where he played both basketball and baseball.
“My older brother, Duane, who also was a college athlete, got me started in basketball at the age of 3, shooting ‘baskets’ through a coat hanger in our basement in Flint. I had to make 100 right and left layups each day or suffer the consequences when he got home from high school” Ward recalled.
Ward had a brief, successful career in business but discovered that financial success did not satisfy other needs. He moved to Texas, where he met and married Lee Anne. They reared daughters, Kymberlee Ward Allen and Lyssa Ward Beyner, both of whom became educators.
Ward coached various sports during his nearly 40-year career and was also a classroom teacher. He had an early affiliation with Buddy Carlisle and a highly successful basketball program at Clear Creek High School. He changed jobs several times before landing what he thought would be his dream job at Texas City ISD.
Then came a recruitment call from fledgling Clear Falls High, which was also searching for a golf coach. Ward credits Lee Anne for cutting through all his deliberative thoughts by saying: “Take it!” The job included teaching, coaching and total involvement in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. CCISD would be his last stop.
Coach Pete Lier (retired) remembers Ward as a multi-sport standout: quarterback, sprinter, baseball player. But mostly, he recalls Ward as “pretty handy” and a “big gun” basketball player.
“Dave was the first 1,000-point scorer in our basketball program, but lots of people don’t remember that” said Lier in a telephone interview. “Dave was the All-American boy. I coached lots of good players, and I wouldn’t want to take anything away from them, but there was no other like Dave.”
Lier, himself a member of the Gladwin sports Hall of Fame, in fact nominated Ward, who was a 2017 inductee. That nomination was in part predicated on Ward’s off the field/track/court behavior.
“Dave was always willing to help out someone else, whether in sports or something else. He was always very active in his church. He was an excellent student. Golf? No, I don’t recall him having anything to do with golf way back then,” he said.
Ward is a 36-year volunteer for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He has accepted a post-retirement staff position with that organization with the title of Ambassador and will be involved with each and every junior high and high school campus in the Clear Creek Independent School District. In 2010, he received the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Bill Yeoman Coach of Influence Award.
Three days prior to Clear Falls graduation ceremonies, which would officially mark the beginning of his next life chapter, Ward was meeting with his golf team members, putting the finishing touches on administrative duties (checking in equipment).
Senior Ethan Dahl will get a new golf bag when he tees up for Schreiner University (Kerrville) in the fall. Preston Holmes will play for Ranger College (Ranger), and Christian Hernandez is headed for Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
All three young men are grateful for time spent learning from their coach. Those lessons were about life skills as well as skills in managing their golf games and creating cohesiveness as a team. They are unanimous in their respect for him, each concurring with the others in their adulation.
For Hernandez, his coach has been involved with his family almost since Clear Falls golf began. They agree their coach has taught them how to deal with winning and coming up short, as was the case at the state tournament.
“We didn’t win, but we hung in there and all improved on our scores on the second day of the tournament” said Holmes as the others nodded in agreement. “He is a wise man, but may not be the best player,” they laughed.
In nine years under the guidance of Ward, the Clear Falls boys golf team has won three district championships and had another three runner-up finishes to qualify for the Region III-6A tournament a whopping six times. The bar is set pretty high for his successor, whom he surely will encourage to “Give em’ some heaven today.”