Shenk is a good word around Bethany golf team

The Shenk family has been a key part of the Bethany Christian golf team this season. (From left): Micah Shenk, coach Jon Shenk, Austin Shenk and Aaron Shenk have all played important  roles for the Bruins this spring.

GOSHEN — There's a family-like atmosphere surrounding the Bethany Christian boys golf team.

Because an actual family can be seen doing most of the coaching and playing.

Jon Shenk is in his fourth year as the varsity boys golf coach for the Bruins and Jon has two sons – Micah and Austin – and a nephew – Aaron-on the team. Micah is a junior, Austin is a freshman and Aaron is a sophomore.

"Not the best name for a golf team," joked Jon about the last name, which is pronounced the same way as that other word that golfers don't want to hear when playing the sport (shank). 

There could have been four Shenks playing on the team.

"Caleb, who is Aaron's older brother, played golf as a freshman, but not as a sophomore and junior," Jon said. "If we can talk him into it maybe we can have four Shenks next year. But I don't know if we'll be able to do that."

There's also another Shenk that doesn't play on the team, but is a big part of the program.

"My dad is affectionately called grandpa Dave," Jon said. "He's our No. 1 fan. He's there for almost all of our matches. He's 70-years old and plays 100 rounds of golf a year."

Micah is the No. 1 golfer on the team, while Austin is No. 3 and Aaron is No. 4.

"Micah is the best," Jon said. "He's older, he's played a lot of golf and his short game is by far the best among the golfers on our team. But Austin is better than Micah when he was a freshman. He could surpass everyone in the family, but he's a freshman and he needs to improve his short game. He also doesn't score as good as he will. That comes with age and experience."

All the Shenks playing for the Bruins have a ways to go before becoming the best golfer in the family.

"(Micah) has never beaten me," said Jon, who is 45-years old. "He's not better than me. He's pretty solid and, eventually, he'll be better than me."

Jon played on Bethany Christian's first golf team in 1989 when he was a freshman.

"I played at No. 1 for all four years," Jon said.  

He then attended Eastern Mennonite University, but he didn't play golf in college.

"I played volleyball there," Jon said. "I went to college to become a high school teacher and coach. I wanted to coach either, soccer, golf or volleyball and playing volleyball would help me learn about coaching."

Micah agrees that his father is the best golfer in the family and that Austin has the potential to be the best in the family.

"He's definitely better than I was when I was a freshman," said Micah about Austin. "He's bigger than me as well."

Micah has flashed some of his talent, with the highlight coming last year at the Caston Invitational.

"It was really fun for me last year at the Caston Invitational," Micah said. "That's where I got my first birdie in high school competition. It was very memorable. There were two perfect shots-a chip and a putt-on a par 5."

Micah and his father have something in common as golfers. Neither has ever shot a hole-in-one.

"That's bit of a sore spot for our family," Jon said about shooting hole-in-ones. "I've played golf for a long time and have never had one. Grandpa Dave has had three or four. My mom (grandma Shirley) has had two or three and my brother has had one and he doesn't golf much. Micah will probably get one before me too."

Micah admits that he feels more comfortable this year golfing for his dad.

"My freshman and sophomore year it mattered more," Micah said about playing for his dad. "This year I haven't felt affected by it.

"I used to have a bad mental game and it has gotten a lot better. A specific thing is that you can't change the past. My dad has given me that advice."

There are two golfers on the team that don't have Shenk for a last name.

Sophomore Kolton Meerzo is the team's No. 2 golfer and sophomore Colin Ward is interchangeable with Aaron.

How do Meerzo and Ward feel about playing with the Shenk family?

"I think they're in awe of our ability," joked Jon.

As a golf coach for the Bruins, Jon has had the challenge of leading a young team this year and managing the personalities within his family.

"As a team we've struggled this year," Jon said. "We have one junior, a bunch of sophomores and a freshman. We lost a couple of really good golfers to graduation. But it has been an enjoyable year. We'll be significantly better next year. 

"Also, sometimes, you don't want to pair Micah with Austin. You want to come away with other pairings sometimes. They just go through normal brother stuff. Golf can bring out the worst in people sometimes."

"That's true," Micah said.

Also true is that Micah loves getting the chance to spend more time with his family while playing a sport he loves.

"It's really fun to come to practice, especially at the beginning of the year, knowing that you know half the players on the team," Micah said.

"It's fun to play with them."

Golf provides a perfect balance to Jon's life. When he's not involved with golf, Jon is an emergency medicine doctor at Goshen Hospital.

"It leaves me the afternoon to play (golf) with these guys," Jon said. "(Golf) is so good for my soul.

"It has been a really fun year and not just because we have a lot of Shenks on the team. All the kids on the team are quality kids and it's fun to coach them."

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