For duffers and experts alike, there is no greater sign of spring than the opening of local golf courses. The same is true for the Kingston High School varsity boys and girls golf teams, both of which opened their 2017 seasons at Wiltwyck Golf Club this week.
For the girls’ side, it wasn’t just the first match of the season, it was the program’s first ever. The nine-member Tigers’ squad fell 171-185 against Mid-Hudson Athletic League opponent Ellenville, a solid showing for a team with very little on-course experience.
“When we first started I asked how many of them had played golf before and they all raised their hand,” said the team’s inaugural coach, Brian Williams. “And then I said miniature golf didn’t count and they all put their hands down. It was really starting from square one.”
In fact, two of the team’s players — senior Sally Ryan and junior Natalie Cook — had prior golfing experience, and both fared well for the Tigers, scoring a 64 and 62 respectively. Senior Emily Jacobsen led the team with a 59, while Layla Hindiyeh shot 72. The rest of the inaugural squad is comprised of senior Kassidy Kelly; juniors Kelly Manley, Ericka Heidecker and Kelsey Fairley; and sophomore Erica Naccarato.
“They’re great,” said Williams of his team. “There’s not a lot of experience, but they’re great kids and they want to learn. They did well today considering the limited amount of time we had practicing. I’m really proud of them.”
Ellenville was led by Camryn Hoar, who shot a 55. Megan Eckert (57), Juliahnna Stephens (59) and Isabelle Donahue (71) rounded out Ellenville’s top finishers.
Williams said he expects the Tigers will compete in the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association in 2018, but they’re in the MHAL this year in a spot vacated by John A. Coleman Catholic, which was unable to field a team this year. It was fortuitous timing for a Kingston program that came together fairly quickly.
“We tried to do this in the past and for several reasons it didn’t happen,” Williams said. “The new [interim] AD [Rick Cowles] this year decided that we were going to go ahead with it and it’s been great. They came to me and asked if I’d be interested in coaching it, and I’m happy to do it.”
Tuesday’s match against Ellenville was the first time competing for the players on the girls’ team, and it came after a relatively brief preseason of preparation.
“We started out in the gym and hit some plastic Wiffle balls,” said Williams. “The next phase was that the driving range was open before the courses, so we went a few times and worked a little bit more on their swings and things.”
Most of the team finally got its first taste of golf on an actual course last week.
“Over the spring break I’d say, ‘I’m going to be at the golf course at 10 a.m. on Monday. If you can make it, that’s great.’ And some of them came out and we were able to get out on the course. We did that a few times over the break.”
Expectations for the season are simply to work hard and get better. League rules mean a player can do no worse than double-par on any given hole. The first goal for the Tigers was to see how many holes they could beat the max on, and from there they’ll look to improve.
“Judging by the scores, they did a good job of that,” Williams said. “Natalie and Sally have a little experience, and the other girls we’re just going to work off their scores and try to do better.”
The regular season lasts just a month, closing at Wiltwyck on Friday, May 19 against Marlboro. The Tiger girls visit Rondout Valley on Friday, April 21, followed by a visit from Onteora on Monday, April 24.
Boys edged by Valley Central
The boys’ side also opened their season at Wiltwyck on Tuesday, with their first two scheduled matches succumbing to poor weather. The Tigers lost a close 211-215 match to Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association opponent Valley Central.
Josh Kienz earned medalist honors for the visiting Vikings, finishing with a 1-under-par 35. Dylan Barone (36), Sean Adams (44) and both Cullen and Noah Conklin (48 apiece) fared well for Valley Central.
The Tigers were led by Jake Hommel’s 36, with Scott Kleeschulte (42), Dante Groppuso (43), Colin Heck (43) and Hunter Happner (51) all contributing.
Kingston’s boys’ squad hit the road for three straight matches starting with a visit to take on Cornwall on Wednesday, April 19 after the Kingston Times went to press. They return home to Wiltwyck on Thursday, April 27 when they host Newburgh Free Academy.