Rob Daugherty is a man with all the bases covered.
During the day, his son, Grant, is a student in his chemistry class at Alcoa High School.
After school, the father and son pairing head to the golf course, where Grant is the state’s sixth-ranked junior and newly-crowned Blount County champion, and Rob is the Tornado coach.
At home, Grant, a junior, still mows the lawn.
There’s never been any trouble keeping it all straight, Grant said.
“At home, he’s dad,” he said. “At school, he’s the teacher. Out here (on the course), he’s the coach.”
Grant Daugherty, with numerous wins on the junior circuit already to his credit, won the county championship he’s coveted since his freshman season with a one-stroke victory over William Blount’s Peyton Sliger last week at Pine Lakes Golf Course. It was part of a big day overall for Alcoa golf, with Lady Tornado senior Lindy McGuire capturing the girls’ title.
Daugherty’s winning score paced a team of Zach Honea, Hunter Tidwell and Blake Hunter to the boys’ team championships as well.
Rob Daugherty, like most parents who coach their children, has always gone the extra mile to maintain a professional relationship when they’re on the course, Grant said, excepting when the latter rolled in the finishing putt last week. After retrieving his ball from the cup, it wasn’t coach Daugherty he first noticed greenside.
“When I putted that last one in, he had the dad face on,” Grant said.
That Grant views their interaction on the golf course as one of largely coach/player is comforting to know, Rob Daugherty said. It’s just not totally accurate.
“To be, honestly, he’s always my son,” he said. “There’s always the though of, ‘How’s Grant doing? What’s Grant doing?’ To me, it’s always, ‘Dad.’”
It’s a unique approach the Daughertys have taken with golf since Grant first expressed an interest in the game.
Rob Daugherty is actually in his second stint as the Tornado golf coach. During his first tenure several years ago, Grant was only a first-grader tagging along with his father, the coach, to practice. Grant immediately took an interest in the game. A year later, he was not only playing, he was winning the very first tournament he ever entered. It was a par-3 tourney for juniors. Grant won by five strokes.
“I wanted to go to the golf course right after that and practice more,” he said.
Improvement came fast. Long before high school, Grant beat his father for the first time. He’d just started the sixth grade.
“I was 11, and I shot a 45,” he said. “He shot a 46, so I beat him by one. That was pretty neat.”
With Grant quickly progressing beyond what he could teach him, Rob Daugherty sought out the best coaching he could find. It wasn’t so much being too close emotionally to aid Grant’s development in the game, Rob said. Grant had the talent to become a first-rank player. It was simply the right thing to do, he said. Grant then hit the high school game going full speed, reaching the state tournament his freshman season.
“The first year was, ‘Oh, I’m just happy to be here,’” Grant said.
He would repeat the feat a year ago, finishing seventh after a slow start on the opening day left too much ground to be made up. Finishing inside the top 10 on the final leaderboard makes an elusive state crown seem all the more attainable, Grant said.
“’You know how to win,’” he said. “’Now, just go out there and post the lowest score.’”
This past summer could hardly have gone better for Blount County’s new high school champion, leading to Grant Daugherty being named the Toyota Tennessee Golf Association Junior Tour Player of the Year entering his junior season at Alcoa.
That still left the Blount County championship absent from Grant’s growing resume. The win last week got “a huge monkey off my back,” he said. “After the first time I lost, I said, ‘That’s not what I thought would happen.’ I said, ‘I need to focus and get this done.’”
Returning to the state tournament and bettering his finish from a year ago would mean a lot, Grant said. It’s just not the thing he hopes for most by season’s end.
“We even have a chance to go to state as a team this year,” he said.
It won’t be easy. The Tornadoes compete in the same district with defending Class A/AA champion Christian Academy of Knoxville, and the Warriors return every player from last year’s title team. It’s going to take something special, but Rob Daugherty, like Grant, like’s his team’s chances.
“We’ve got a chance,” he said. “I think it’s going to take a really good effort on our part. They (the Warriors) didn’t lose anybody, but we’ve gotten better. I give us a chance.”
There’s little chance Grant will ever become confused about the whole father/coach scenario, though. The Tornadoes took in a practice round earlier this week at Pine Lakes. Things wrapped a little early, prompting Grant to ask the coach where the team was going to eat.
“Nowhere,” Rob Daugherty said. “Go home and mow the front.”
Sometimes it’s coach. Sometimes it’s teacher. Sometimes, it’s just dad.