Lewis becomes first HC golfer to continue in college with decision to sign with Cumberlands


Harlan County High School senior Matt Lewis signed with the University of the Cumberlands on Thursday to continue his golf and academic career at the University of the Cumberlands. Pictured at the signing ceremony are, from left: HCHS golf coach Greg Lewis, Matt Lewis, Jessica Lewis and University of the Cumberlands golf coach Aaron Watkins.

By John Henson, Bear Tracks advisor

As a senior at James A. Cawood High School in 2008, Aaron Watkins became the final golfer at his school to sign a scholarship to play golf in college with the University of the Cumberlands.
Watkins returned to his native Harlan County on Thursday, this time as the golf coach at the Cumberlands, to sign the first high school golfer at Harlan County High School to continue in college. Matt Lewis made his decision official in a signing ceremony at HCHS.
“Matt had an excellent career at HC, and I’m excited to bring him in to be a part of my team,” Watkins said. “He’s a solid player, an excellent student and an even better person, so I’m excited to be able to coach him.”
“The layout of the Cumberlands campus was something that I really love. It’s large, but there’s not tons of people there,” Lewis said. “The college and the golf team are very welcoming. It doesn’t feel like you have to earn acceptance. You feel wanted by the school and the team. Plus, the program has been very successful, so I’m having an opportunity to play with and learn from great players from all over the world and a great coach in coach Watkins.”
Lewis was a key part of the HCHS golf program the last few years, which was led by his father, Greg. The Bears had their best season this past fall, dominating the Pine Mountain Golf Conference while winning numerous matches, including the league title, with a foursome featuring freshman Brayden Casolari, eighth-grader Cole Cornett, sophomore Alex Creech and Lewis.
“I cannot put into words the pride I am feeling right now. When Matt was a young boy, he learned to do ladder goals with the First Tee of Pine Mountain. By chance he was paired up with a group of golfers from the Cumberlands one summer and he came home, made his ladder goals and playing college golf for the Cumberlands was on the top of that list. Today he has achieved the dream he had as a young boy,” said Greg Lewis, who recently stepped down as coach with his son graduating in May. “To see the work he has put into his game, the prayers he’s had answered, and the sacrifices he and our family has made pay off is very fulfilling. Matt is going to do great things in this world and this is just the beginning for him. Me and his mom could not be any prouder of Matt.”
Lewis said coaching his son was one of the highlights of his time leading the program.
“This is a unique situation that I am here as a coach and a dad. First, I cannot say enough about Matt as a golfer. He was the hardest working kid I have ever coached. He sacrificed time with his friends, he missed get togethers, all to put in the work on the course. He has a great playing resume over his five years of varsity golf and he is a great teammate. He has been the leader of this team for several years and led us this year to arguably the greatest golf season in Harlan County history. And as I have said before, he did everything the right way. Matt’s playing resume is very impressive. He will graduate high school with over 30 college credit hours while maintaining a 3.9 GPA. I couldn’t ask for a better representative than Matt to be the first Harlan County High School golfer to earn a college scholarship. The Cumberlands is getting a great player but an even better Godly young man,” Lewis said. “He has a great short game that is just going to get better and better for him. The transition to the college game will take some adjustment, but I have no doubt he will do what he always has and go to work. He is going to a program that is ranked in the top 10 nationally. He has a lot of great players ahead of him so he knows it’s going to be a battle to earn playing time. But that’s something Matt has never been afraid of. The facility the University of the Cumberlands has is very player-friendly and gives them the opportunity to work on their games on campus, which is a great plus.”
The younger Lewis is confident he’s ready to play on the next level.
“I think playing at HC really helped prepare me for the college game. Playing in the Pine Mountain Golf Conference helped me by getting me used to playing against big fields on different style courses. The rivalries we had against good competition made me be ready to play and fight for scores every time out,” he said. “The practice regimen my dad built plus being in the First Tee of Pine Mountain with Donnie Caldwell helped me understand what it took to be a college golfer. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by and play with collegiate golfers all my life. I understand the work and dedication that goes into be a collegiate golfer. I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to go to the University of the Cumberlands. I’m thankful to my coach, my dad, for the time and dedication he’s given to my career. He’s been there with me every step of the way. I’m thankful for the sacrifices my family has made to make this possible. Now I’m just excited to see what the Cumberlands has to offer and to see how much I can improve with such a great program.”
“All of us at Harlan County High School cannot be more proud of Matt,” added HCHS athletic director Eugene Farmer. “Matt is the epitome of a true student-athlete. His grades are phenomenal, he’s a soloist in the HCHS Choir and was a consistent performer throughout his four years of high school. Playing for a coach like Aaron Watkins will only help Matt’s game thrive, and I believe that Matt’s best golf is definitely in his future. We have no doubt that Matt will represent Harlan County High School very well at the University of the Cumberlands.”