By Steven Eggert
Last year, the Broncs only posted three tournament rounds under 310, with a low of 306. This year, under new Head Coach Jason Barry, they’ve had 11 rounds under 310. The last time the Broncs scored under 300 in a tournament round was on April 11, 2009. This year they posted three tournament rounds under 300.
Barry attended Rider, where he received his degree in psychology in 2010, but was unable to play on the golf team because he was working to become a certified Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) teaching professional.
As Bob Whartenby, ’04, stepped down as the Rider golf head coach because of other job commitments and family obligations in the summer of 2013, the door was finally open for Barry to get involved in college golf. This time, as a coach.
“I’ve always been into helping people improve and getting people going in the right direction,” Barry said. “I’ve really liked coaching over the last eight years. I was doing it at the high school level, and when the job opened up, I thought it would be a perfect fit.”
On the course, Barry has already coached the Broncs to playing their best rounds in the last five years.
Now 26, Barry has spent the last eight years teaching golf throughout Mercer County. He’s a certified PGA professional and was a 2013-14 New Jersey Golf Digest Top Teacher nominee.
Last season, Barry coached West Windsor Plainsboro-North High School to a 11-4 season.
As the go-to guy for many of the county’s high school players trying to fix their swing flaws, the support from his students to pursue the Rider coaching job was immense.
“I encouraged him, and we all, who knew him, encouraged him,” said freshman Sam DiGaetano, who has been taught by Barry for the past several years. “When he got the job, it’s like everything fell into place. It really couldn’t have turned out better.”
DiGaetano now golfs at Rider and is one of a handful of players Barry has developed into a college-level golfer. DiGaetano feels lucky to be playing four more years under Barry’s instruction.
Now, as the Rider golf head coach, Barry intends to share his passion and knowledge of the game with the whole team.
The first task on his agenda was to turn the golf room into a reliable practice facility.
Barry has given players a giant mirror in the room to work on their posture while off the course, club face spray so that they can view the impact of the golf balls once they’re hit, and video cameras and monitors to better visualize their fundamentals in the golf swing.
These off-the-course changes were most effective throughout the cold and brutal winter.
“We had a really good offseason, though the weather was terrible,” Barry said. “We set different things up to make the room a good practice facility. We did things to simulate playing golf in the room to get reps and routines going.”
Barry has also made his mark off the course in recruiting, and decided to start in his place of work, Mercer County.
Jake Gurock, from West Windsor Plainsboro-South High School, recently signed under Barry to play golf with the Broncs next fall.
Last May, Gurock was three shots away from qualifying for the U.S. Open, and last week, he won the Cherry Valley Tournament after scoring a four-under 32 on the back nine to win the event by one stroke.
He had a strong swing coach this past year — Barry.
“He’s really the reason why I’m playing as well as I am right now,” Gurock said. “I think it’s hard to find a college coach who knows more about the game than Jason. I know that under four years of his tutelage, I’m definitely going to improve my game. I’m all set for my four years as a Bronc.”
One player who has been excited about the changes is senior captain James Buttermark. It’s only his first season under Barry, but he has already seen the night-and-day changes to the team’s success.
“The change to Jason has been huge for us,” Buttermark said. “Bob Whartenby was good, but he had another job. With Jason, if you have a problem, you just text or call him, and he’ll meet with you. That’s a huge part to the change we’ve had from Bob to Jason.”
Overall, though there’s been a lot of work, Barry’s year as a first-time Division I coach has been a success.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “It’s been fun watching these guys improve and watch us play better. It’s a great way to spend a lot of my time, and I love it.”
This story was revised April 27, 2014 to include the following clarification:
Jason Barry coached West Windsor Plainsboro-North High School to an 11-4 record. Originally it stated he coached West Windsor Plainsboro-South High School to a 15-0 record.