Krista Dunton: Coach of the Year puts years of experience to work for others

KRISTA-DUNTONKrista Dunton has worked with a lot of golfers — and a lot of would-be golfers.

The Berkeley Hall Club senior instructor led the women’s golf team while at the University of Michigan and competed on the Futures Tour, part of the LPGA, for four years.

These days, she works with Berkeley Hall members, visiting groups and other wannabe duffers looking to improve their swings. But that’s not all.

She also works with about 80 girls as part of the LPGA Girls Golf program, introducing them to the sport and helping them become more comfortable on the course. And once a month, she goes out to Parris Island to help injured Marines play adaptive golf, helping them overcome their physical limitations and score big on the course.

“Golf is a tough sport,” Dunton said. “You’re out there alone, you don’t have teammates to rely on. It teaches you character. You’ve got to be able to accept failure, and to face adversity and challenges and laugh at the bad stuff. It’s such a good thing for people to learn.”

Despite its mentally demanding challenges, Dunton said she’s glad she’s introducing young girls to the sport. It’s these challenges, she said, that will help the girls face whatever life throws at them down the road — while maybe opening doors for them through scholarships and other opportunities.

“Hilton Head has so many golf academies, but not every girl is cracked up for that,” Dunton said. “So we help them learn the sport, and we also teach them other sports, too, like how to throw a baseball or other things that will help their golf game in the long run. We help them get their feet wet and give them a taste for the sport.”

Dunton’s own taste for golf makes her an excellent teacher. She has been named one of the top 100 golf teachers in the country by Golf Magazine, and she’s won numerous awards for her teaching, including the PGA Carolinas Section Teacher of the Year award, the Hilton Head PGA Chapter Teacher of the Year award and the LPGA National Teacher of the Year award.

But she’s not in it for the glory. Instead, Dunton said she loves connecting with her students, both young and old, and finds herself re-energized by sparking their love of the game.

“Golf is a game that unites people,” she said. “It brings people from all different backgrounds together, and I get a chance to meet them all.”

For example Dunton recently gave lessons to business tycoons and an ex-director of the FBI — an opportunity that came about partly because of our area’s focus on golf.

“I look at my students like a puzzle, and have to figure out how I’m going to communicate and connect with each student,” she said. “No two people are the same, and no two golf links are the same … Kids, especially, owe it to themselves to learn golf. And you’ve got to take advantage of what’s in our backyard — some of the best courses around.”