In golf, your greatest asset is your mind.
That’s why University High School’s boys golf coaches Tom FitzGibbon and Taylor Newell are emphasizing the mental aspects of the game this season.
“What Taylor and I can help with is the mental game,” said Head Coach Tom FitzGibbon. “We can make sure our players understand how to be professional on the golf course, how to be smart on the golf course, how to bounce back after a bad shot or bad hole, how to stay calm and relaxed, and how to have fun. I think that’s something we are good at, keeping them in that head space.”
Practices began on Monday, March 13, but cold weather and frequent rain have mostly prevented the team from practicing outdoors at Wood Wind Golf Club, their home course. Instead, the team has stayed at school for indoor conditioning and golf rule study sessions.
“It’s important to know the rules so we don’t violate them, but players can also sometimes use the rules to their advantage,” said FitzGibbon. “For example, if you have a bad lie, but you know the options the rules afford you, you might choose to take a penalty stroke. That could get you out of the bad lie and also save you some strokes in the long run.”
Every stroke will count this year for the Trailblazers, as they look to improve on last year’s record.
“We won several matches last year,” said sophomore Thomas Tanselle. “We have an even better team this year, so we should have a good shot at winning a couple of matches and maybe advancing an individual or two out of sectionals.”
Defending Their Conference Championship
The team’s most notable win last year was the Pioneer Academic-Athletic Conference tournament. The team shot 209 in the 2016 tournament at Bluff Creek Golf Course to defeat Greenwood Christian Academy, Crispus Attucks Magnet Medical High School, Seton Catholic High School, and Shortridge High School.
“In terms of defending our conference championship, I think it’s important for everyone on the team to work on their physical game, like their swings, but also work on their mental game,” said FitzGibbon. “We want to make sure that they’re not sacrificing shots unnecessarily, not giving up strokes unnecessarily, and just using practice time to their advantage.”
A Strong Roster
Tanselle and junior Anoop Jasti are the two returning members of the conference championship team. This will be Jasti’s third consecutive season playing varsity. Senior Troy Belanger returns to the varsity lineup after taking his junior year off, and he is expected to be one of the top golfers for the team this season. Senior Evan Vesper also returns to the team with several matches of varsity experience.
The team has a good mix of experienced golfers and new golfers this year.
“It’ll be interesting to see how all the pieces fit together this year,” said FitzGibbon. We have three returning players who have played consistent varsity in the past. We have some guys who have played a little golf, but they’ve only played recreationally, so this will be their first time in a tournament setting. And we have some players who haven’t played golf before.”
New additions to the team include seniors Zachary Chen, Zachary Daniels, and John Lawicki, juniors David Howard and Foster Flamion, sophomore Manish Krishnamaneni, and freshman Will Jolly. Despite these new additions, Tanselle reports that the team culture remains intact.
“It’s very relaxed and not a ton of pressure, like other sports might be,” said Tanselle. “It’s just a lot friendlier. You’re playing against yourself primarily, so it’s as hard as you make it.”