Coach Del Greco deals with tragedy team
STATELINE – When former NFL placekicker Al Del Greco became a high school golf coach six years ago, there was nothing in the coaching handbook that prepared him for the tragedy he faced in 2006.
Del Greco’s top player at Spain Park High in Birmingham, Ala, died in a two-car accident during spring break. Bradley Johnson, 17, not only was one of the best players in Alabama but he was one of the top junior players in the country. He was the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up, a Rolex Junior All-American and the Robert Trent Jones Player of the Year.
“It was tough because he played for me for three years and was a great kid. He’s probably the best player I may ever coach,” said Del Greco, who finished in a 12th-place tie in the American Century Championship over the weekend at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
“We spent the whole golf season on a down note and missing him and what he meant to our team. I still expect him to come walking around a corner every time I’m at a golf course.”
Del Greco and his Spain Park team decided to cancel two tournament appearances as they tried to come to grips with the tragedy.
“To have to deal with that, not only the with the way I felt about him but as the coach all the players, really made it difficult to think what was the right thing to do,” Del Greco said.
When Spain Park resumed their season, the tragedy was eventually softened by a feel-good ending. Spain Park qualified for the state tournament and Del Greco’s son, Trey, won the Alabama Class 6A individual state title.
“Did I think my son was the state champion at the beginning of the year, I would tell you probably not,” Del Greco said. “I think there was a lot of fate; it was meant to be. We qualified for state, which I didn’t think there was anyway possible to do that.”
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