The Saugerties High boys’ varsity golf team is four bouts into the season and still uncertain about which direction it’s going to wind up traveling. The team is 2-2 following a 168-194 some loss to New Paltz at the Lazy Swan.
The loss was especially pronounced as it showed the team failing to maintain momentum from a hard fought 199-204 win at home against Red Hook just three days earlier. In that battle, junior Paddy Defino earned top honors for the Sawyers with a 47, just one stroke off Red Hook’s Kyle Van Wagner’s overall best. As teams so often do, the rest of the Sawyers – Tim Sutton (48), Steve Muniseri (50) and Nate Tomlinson (60) – did enough to make up the difference in the win.
Golf is one of the few high school team sports that rely exclusively on the collective success of a group of individuals. There are no assists and no lead blockers as the tiny ball makes its way from tee to hole, and no amount of pre-game high-fives will make anyone think otherwise. But for Defino, in his second year on the golf team playing a sport he’s enjoyed since the age of nine, that’s part of the appeal.
“My favorite part of the game is that it’s you against yourself,” he said.
Defino said the team’s difficulties in establishing its identity early in the season is due in part to something of an exodus from last year’s squad. But while varsity teams no matter what the sport are faced with the annual quandary about how to replace graduating seniors, the Sawyers were also left with holes to fill for another reason: Options.
“We lost a lot of seniors and two other players who would have helped us decide they wanted to play soccer this year instead,” Defino said. “So we are very young, but if we all play well we can be a tough team to beat.”
That was certainly true against Red Hook, but less so when New Paltz came to town. It wasn’t necessarily anything the Sawyers did wrong, because their top four finishers came in five strokes less than they did last Friday; New Paltz was simply too good.
Defino again had the best round for Saugerties, coming in at 41. Nick Armstrong (47), Matt Hogan (53) and Ryan Cornelison (53) all performed quite well. But when the other team’s high (Ryan Higgins’ 36) and low (Greg Lee’s 47) are better than your own, there’s no way to turn it around. And perhaps that’s why rivalries are different in golf, where you can only control how well you perform, than in something like football, where athletes are able to channel that aggression into a physical response. In golf, that sort of emotional response could have you sending every tee shot into the woods.
“I don’t think we really have any rivals but we had a close match against Red Hook, so it will be interesting to see the outcome of our next match with them at their course,” Defino said.
That rematch comes at the end of a tough four-contest road stretch that began at FDR on Tuesday, September 20 and ended at Red Hook one week later. If the Sawyers are still even after that, they’ll have five straight opportunities at the Lazy Swan to build on that to close out the season. The MHAL championships are scheduled for Thursday, October 13 at Rhinebeck.
Golf is sometimes a forgotten sport in the fall season, especially when there are so many other fan-friendly options like football and soccer to keep the Sawyer faithful occupied. Though they get few spectators and sometimes even less attention in the press, the Saugerties golf team takes an awful lot of pride in what they do, not only for the individual and team achievements inherent in the game, but also in performing well for their school. They share that particular motivation with other athletes in fall, winter and spring.
“It means a lot to play for Saugerties,” said Defino. “No matter what the sport.”