Young Pinelands Golfers Shoot for Consistency, B South Title
Chris McGrotty had a rough Opening Day at the Wall Invitational Golf Tournament on April 3. The Pinelands Regional senior captain had fared well through 12 holes, but for some reason hit a wall later in the course.
“I was shooting 80 through 12, then on two holes I shot a 9 and 10,” McGrotty said with a shrug. “I don’t know what happened. It was just one of those days.”
Overall, the Wildcats shot 380 as a team and finished just outside the top 15. Sophomore Connor Carney was the team’s best golfer for the day, coming into the clubhouse with an 83, while junior Ben DeFiglio and freshman Kayla Gutierrez fired 98 and 99, respectively, and freshman Austin Carney carded a 100.
“Jumping Brook always plays tough,” said coach James Becker. “But for some reason, in the 10 years I’ve been coach, we typically aren’t great in tournaments. I don’t know what the deal is with that, but it’s true. No matter which tournament – Wall, Ocean County, state sectional – we just never seem to get ourselves up too high. We’re a much better match-play team.”
And that’s what should be noted here, because the Wildcats have enough in the tank to make a run at the Shore Conference Class B South title this spring, despite the presence of Jackson Liberty, Lacey and Central Regional.
“Our first goal is a B South title, and it’s very possible we can get it,” McGrotty said prior to Pinelands’ home-opening, 176-235 victory over Manchester on April 4. “The next thing is we want to place well in the Ocean County Tournament. We have a lot of young players, but we’re definitely going to be a competitive team.”
According to Becker, his squad is a capable bunch, in that each of them on any given day can shoot in the 40s. In match play, McGrotty was highly consistent a year ago, and Becker expects his only senior to be very much the same type of player this spring. Behind him, Connor Carney is expected to be among the Wildcats’ leading golfers as well. Then it will be up to DeFiglio, Austin Carney and Gutierrez to fill in the gaps.
“Chris is a solid player and very consistent. He’s come a long way since his freshman year, when he was shooting in the 70s,” Becker said. “Chris is the leader and I can’t say enough good things about him. It’s a pleasure having him lead this team and I think he’ll be great for us this season.
“Connor has been consistent as well. So, we have two consistent guys at the front of the lineup. But Ben, Austin and Kayla are going to be the X-factors. If they can produce solid scores, I’m confident we’ll win a lot of matches.”
Following a 10-6 season last spring, including a 6-4 mark in the division, winning more may translate into the championships McGrotty believes the Wildcats can snatch. And more often than not, he expects to be leading the charge.
“I’m embracing the leadership role I have this season,” he said. “I enjoy it and I believe I’m a natural at it. I’m going to be a motivator for our team, giving the pep talks and letting the rest of them know what has to get done. But there’s no extra pressure on me. I just play golf and have fun.
The rest of the Pinelands squad includes junior Erin Patrauskas, sophomore Ryan Gulya and freshmen David Laney, Creed Nass, Alex Dimm, P.J. Losewicz and Augustino Daleo.
— David Biggy