The following is the third in a series of stories focusing on the four Illinois FCS football coaches and their interests outside of their sport. Today's installment of "For the Love Beyond the Game" is Eastern Illinois head coach Kim Dameron and his love of golf.
Growing up the son of a coach in Hot Springs, Ark.., Kim Dameron had a vision for his athletic career.
“I grew up wanting to be John Stockton,” Dameron said of the Hall of Fame point guard and longtime NBA star. “But that never panned out. Football was just where I ended up.”
After a playing career as a wide receiver and defensive back at the University of Arkansas, Dameron has coached football for more than 30 years.
A different sport, however, lit his competitive fire early in life and today allows him quality time with friends and family.
For Dameron, that sport is golf, which he picked up at age 8.
“My dad (Dick) was a golfer,” he said. “My brother (Kelly) is a golfer. … Over the summers and through the offseasons, that’s a family activity that we really enjoyed.”
As members of a local country club in Hot Springs, the Dameron family took advantage of their opportunities to play regularly.
“They had a kids 9-hole course,” Dameron said. “They just let you go out. That was my first introduction. Growing up, any way you were able to go out and compete at something, that was something that I enjoyed. It was the challenge of trying to get better and being able to work on something.”
Along with playing on both sides of the ball in football, Dameron also played basketball, baseball and competed in track during his high school years.
“I was a hurdler and ran the decathlon,” he said. “There was never a time growing up that we weren’t in season.”
Golf is the one sport that Dameron continues to compete in, though another person in his family may have a brighter competitive fire.
He plays regularly with his wife, Debbie, at courses in Charleston and Mattoon near EIU’s campus and also occasionally plays in the Champaign area.
“Now it’s about relaxation and being able to see some people you might not get to see on a daily basis,” he said. “We play in scrambles and we really enjoy that. She might be more of a competitor than I am now at golf.
“We enjoy being able to be out with other groups and enjoy a little fellowship,” Dameron said.
During the offseason, Dameron still enjoys playing with his father and brother, who both live in the Dallas area.
“My dad is 82 and he played this morning,” Dameron said.
His father, in fact, has plenty of highlights from their rounds.
“I’ve never had a hole in one,” he said. “My brother’s had one or two. My dad has two. For some reason, it’s never gone in the hole for me.”
Making the rounds
Dameron has enjoyed rounds at some of the nation’s most prestigious golf courses.
“I’ve played Colonial (Country Club) in Dallas, and I played Congressional (Country Club) in Maryland when I was coaching at Ole Miss,” he said. “I actually have a picture from Congressional. I hit a 4-iron on one of the par-3s that ended up probably 6 inches from the hole.
“Those are always great memories,” he said. “I’m hoping that my best memory is yet to come,” he said with a laugh.
Dameron said he hopes to cross more courses off of his must-play list in the coming years.
“I’ve always wanted to play Pebble Beach (in California),” he said. “My wife has some friends out there, so hopefully that might happen someday. I’d love to play Augusta National (site of the Masters) someday, but getting on there is kind of tough.”
Watching the pros
Whether it’s in person or on TV, Dameron marvels at the game’s best players. His favorites include Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day.
“That’s a whole different sport than the one I play,” Dameron said. “They’re not only phenomenal athletes, but the touch and the feel they have is unbelievable.”
He also admires the mental toughness that pro golfers display in challenging moments on the course.
“I thought what set Tiger Woods apart for many years was the mental game,” he said.
That strong mental approach displayed by the pros on Sundays is something Dameron enjoys seeing in his own athletes.
“If you translate that into our game, it’s the way kids are able to compete under pressure,” he said. “That’s your goal for them, to do it when it needs to be done.”