During summers when he was a teenager, Doug DeBettencourt would walk from his home in Oak Bluffs to the Island Country Club each morning with a bag of golf clubs slung over his shoulder to play 36 holes, solo. He’d become obsessed with the sport since a friend lent him a golf club when he was 12 and let him take his first swing at a golf ball. As soon as he made contact and the ball sailed off into the distance, Mr. DeBettencourt said he knew he’d found his passion.

“I took a whack at it and really hit it well,” he said. “I got hooked. I went from shooting in the low 90s to high 70s. All of a sudden I realized I was getting pretty decent at the game.”

Mr. DeBettencourt, who grew up in Holliston, continued to train at the club every summer when he visited family on the Vineyard. Later, he secured a spot on the Boston College golf team. As team captain his last two years, he played for the Northeast All-Star golf team and traveled to Ireland to play the Irish national team. A golf career seemed within reach, but Mr. DeBettencourt said the drive wasn’t there to pursue it.

“I had professional aspirations...but there was a point when I realized that maybe I didn’t have the ability, work ethic and desire that would be needed to try to go after it,” he said.

After graduation, Mr. Debettencourt moved to the Vineyard and took a job as the head golf professional at Farm Neck Golf Club (formerly the Island Country Club). He said he soon discovered that he enjoyed teaching golf just as much as playing it. After 15 years of giving lessons he moved on to join the math department at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, where he started coaching the golf team.

Twenty-five years later, Mr. DeBettencourt, now 64, continues to head the golf program that he’s led several times to the state finals, including this year. The team finished seventh overall in the Division III state tournament held Monday at the Black Swan Country Club in Georgetown.

While the team practiced last Friday at Farm Neck, driving balls into the low afternoon sun, Mr. DeBettencourt intently watched each stroke. He walked slowly behind the six players, just out of reach of the swinging clubs before abruptly stopping and zeroing in on one of them, senior Benny Binder, who’s ball had just sliced into the trees.

Coach DeBettencourt passing along words of wisdom to his team at last Friday's practice. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Roll your hands forward. You’re squeezing a little bit,” said Mr. DeBettencourt while taking the club to demonstrate. Binder nodded, adjusted his grip and swung. The ball sailed straight ahead and landed on the glimmering green fairway.

Mr. DeBettencourt smiled and hopped into a golf cart for a leisurely drive around the picturesque course while the team moved on to a green to practice putting.

“I want to teach the kids fundamentally the right away instead of just putting a Band-aid on their swing,” he said while driving onto Hole 8 with striking views of Sengekontacket Pond. “You have to get the kids to understand what you’re trying to explain to them. Whether you’re teaching them golf or calculus, you’re still trying to impart knowledge on them.”

A man in the distance let out a yell and a golf ball dropped from a tree in front of the golf cart. Mr. DeBettencourt was unfazed.

“Don’t worry, I saw him,” he said with a wink. “I would have said something, but the tree was in the way.”

The man walked up and Mr. DeBettencourt recognized him as Brad Simpkins, a father of one of his former star players, Finn Simpkins. The next shot, 160 feet away from the hole out of the rough, was a tricky one so Mr. Simpkins asked Mr. DeBettencourt to impart some of his coaching wisdom.

“What do you tell your kids on this shot?” asked Mr. Simpkins.

“Pray,” Mr. DeBettencourt responded, laughing.

Driving onto Hole 12 where a gaggle of geese ventured onto the fairway, Mr. DeBettencourt said one of the best feelings as a coach is seeing former students continue with the game.

“I think of all the good kids that I’ve had and been able to kind of get to know them on a more non-academic level. A lot of these kids still play and I see them on different courses,” he said. “I like to help them learn a game that hopefully they’ll be playing for the next 70 years.”

The hole also brought back a memory of playing the back nine of Farm Neck with Bill Clinton in the first year of his presidency where Mr. DeBettencourt faced the highest pressure swing of his life.

“The president was about 150 feet out and I realized he hadn’t hit his second shot yet,” said Mr. DeBettencourt. “He turns around and tells me to go ahead and just hit it. I’m there with a three iron trying to hit over the President of the United States without hitting him!”

He said the shot cleared the president’s head by a wide margin and he breathed a sigh of relief.

“He wasn’t a bad player,” he added. “I’d say he was a 15 handicap.”

Mr. DeBettencourt retired as the MVRHS Math department chairman last spring after 15 years at the high school, but said he plans to continue coaching golf for two more years so he can see his current sophomore players through graduation. Once this season is over, he said he has a whole trip planned around his other passion: RVing.

“We’re going to spend the winter out west in the RV,” he said, (we being he and his wife Jayne DeBettencourt). “I’m excited about retirement. I’m looking forward to playing golf, spending time with my grandchildren and traveling the country.”

The drive ended at the green where the team was focused on their short game. Mr. DeBettencourt looked on proudly and said they made his job easy.

“These kids police themselves,” he said. “They’re as good as any team I’ve ever had.”

He then singled out one of the players, sophomore Pete Gillis, who he said had the lowest stroke average for the team this year.

“I taught his grandfather, Jimmy Gillis, how to play golf,” he said. “He played until the day he passed away. Now, I’m teaching his grandson. That’s the enjoyment I get out of a lifetime of being involved in golf.”

He added that the Vineyard couldn’t be a more beautiful place to have spent over 40 years playing and teaching the sport he loves.

“I’m a pretty laid back guy. Honestly, this is why I’ve been into golf for so long,” he said while gazing out at the surrounding scenery. “I don’t care about shooting 72 anymore. I’ve lost the competitive desire, but I haven’t lost the enjoyment.”