Jason Barry hasn’t strayed far from home to find the perfect places for himself when it comes to his career as a golf coach and teacher.
It was just over six years ago that Barry, a Princeton High School graduate, landed the job as the head golf coach at Rider University. And now, after 12 years as a teaching professional, he has added another dream job as the Teaching Professional at Springdale Golf Club in Princeton.
“It couldn’t be more ideal for me,” Barry said. “It’s a perfect position. I just teach and coach. That’s all I have ever done. So it is perfect. I teach the members at Springdale and I also teach players that I have been working with for years as well.”
Barry just completed his sixth season as the head coach at Rider. As a high school player at Princeton High, Barry played his home matches at Springdale and now gets to call the course home again.
“I grew up competing on this course,” said Barry, who has twice been named to Golf Digest’s Best Young Teachers in American list. “This was our home course for matches when I played in high school. I grew up in Princeton, so I have been able to come back home so to speak.
“It couldn’t be more of an ideal setup for me. Springdale is amazing. The facilities are great. The membership is nice. The staff is first class. I grew up playing here, so it has a sentimental piece to it as well.”
Barry will now coach at Rider and do his teaching at Springdale. As the Broncs’ head coach he has seen the program take tremendous strides forward under his watch.
“The Rider program is doing a lot better,” Barry said. “We’re about 21 shots better per round since I took the program over. We had a really good spring. When I took over the program we were averaging 318 and we just averaged 297 last spring so it is a big difference.
“I am trying to win a conference championship. We were one back with 18 to go (at Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament) down in Disney in April. We just didn’t play well on the last day. But it was cool to have a chance to win and we were in the mix.”
Coaching at the college level gives Barry the opportunity to recruit and then work with high level players coming out of high school. It’s a different aspect of coaching and teaching than his work as a teaching professional. Now he gets the best of both worlds.
“I love coaching the team and I love the guys on the team,” said Barry, who last winter was among those from the 2005-2008 golf team to be inducted into the Princeton High Athletic Hall of Fame. “I like working with advance higher level players and I like just working with people who play golf recreationally on the weekend get a little bit better, too. It’s all coaching for me. Some are higher level players. Some are just beginning. Some are in the middle. I am just trying to help everybody get better.
“Keith Stewart is the Head Golf Professional and the Director of Fun at Springdale. He basically oversees everything and he is the reason I have this position. He does a great job and the two assistants her do a great job as well.”
Barry, who had been working as a teaching pro at Mercer Oaks, now has an opportunity to expand his pool of players he gets a chance to work with on their game.
“I work with all ages, all levels, and all types of players,” Barry said. “I work with people who are trying to get out of the bunker for the first time. Or people who want to chip it a little better. Maybe some people who just need grip or stance type stuff. And then you get other players who have been playing for years and are competing in tournaments. Higher level players who I teach who play professionally. I teach basically everybody.
“It’s been a great road for me. I started teaching at Mercer 12 years ago. I taught there for a while and did a bunch of Junior stuff. Then I got the job coaching at West Windsor North and I did that for a season. Then I got the job at Rider and was still giving lessons at Mercer. I’ve continued to coach Rider and then I got the job here, which is a total dream come true.”
Barry, who earned a degree in 2010 from Rider, where he majored in Psychology, puts the improvement of his players and students above his own game, which is part of the reason for his continued success.
“I don’t play too much anymore,” Barry said. “I sure would like to be better. I am teaching and coaching so much that when I do get a day off I usually spend it away from the golf course. This game requires time to get better and I just don’t have the time to put into practice so I can’t get mad at myself when I don’t play how I want to play. I understand what it takes to actually perform at a decent level and I just don’t put in those hours anymore. I usually spend that time trying to get better as a coach and a teacher.”