When you think of golf, do you think of a team? For many people, the answer is no. Golf, naturally and always, is seen as a much more individual sport, where the only thing you have to rely on is yourself, the clubs in your hands. There are caddies and fans, sure, but at the end of the day, its Tiger’s swing, Spieth’s short game. The trophy stays in their facility, too.
But it’s more than that. Especially so for the Marist golf team, a squad that is more than a group of individuals, even more than a team; they’re a family. And, like a family, triumphs and tribulations come and go.
The most recent triumph for the team came in early October when they placed second for the first time in recent memory. Biagio Raimondi, a senior at Marist and the team’s president, attributed the team’s success to hard work and its infusion of talented young players. Specifically, Raimondi highlighted three players who have been playing exceptionally well: Tyler Gregory, Timothy Valentine, and Jack McDonough.
“Tyler Gregory, who is a transfer here, is a phenomenal player. Really strikes the ball well. [He’s] young, which I’m happy about because it will show continuity,” Raimondi said. He mentioned that, in addition to Gregory, “Timmy can hit the ball a really long way. And Jack is really consistent. All three of those guys can shoot in the 70s.”
The play of these three from the October tournament speaks for itself, with Valentine, Gregory, and McDonough averaging 77, 79, and 80 respectively. Raimondi also noted how many other players are on the verge of breaking 80, which is crucial to the team’s continuing success. Many of the players have at least another year to improve. “I am actually the only one leaving after this semester,” Raimondi said, “so that talent should stay.”
Raimondi and his players are planning on carrying the momentum from the fall into the spring. As of now, the team has two tournaments scheduled for the spring, one in March and the other in April. “An average tournament for us is two days and each day everyone plays 18 holes” team vice president, Ryan Pethigal said. “You get paired up with one guy from your school and two guys from another school.”
As the season grows closer, the team’s focus is on their preparations for these two spring tournaments, which comes with plenty of difficulties.
“Up here it’s tough to prepare. I encourage the guys to go to ranges over break,” Raimondi said. Preparation is made more difficult due to the fact that courses in the northeast don’t open until later in the year. McCann Memorial golf course opens on April 1; the team’s first tournament comes on March 28. “We’re still figuring out how we are going to prepare for that tournament.”
It’s a huge barrier that the team will have to scale to find success this season. Raimondi also added that structure is difficult for the team, as there are no structured practices. Instead, players are encouraged to practice roughly twice a week if and when they can. This can be challenging, especially considering that players must practice in the daylight and during the week, since golfing at night or on a busy course isn’t the most productive.
“Finding time to practice is always tricky, especially for people who are taking heavy course loads. So, that’s definitely an obstacle that’s affected us,” Raimondi said.
Even with these tests, the team finds ways to stay strong and help one another, whether it be by carpooling to the range or encouraging each other’s productivity. When the team faced their biggest challenge during the fall, they still found ways to be there and support one another, just like a family.
On October 24, Daniel Shapiro, a sophomore at Marist and a devoted member of the golf team, passed away unexpectedly due to a heart condition. The loss devastated the team. Even though he could be quiet, he was a stoic presence amongst his teammates; the team gave him the nickname “Dan the Man,” or DTM for short.
“Me and a couple of the other guys have written in a sharpie ‘DTM’ in the hats,” Raimondi said. “This season, we will be playing in his honor. Like any other way, it was hard. I guess in times like that, rather than being alone, we all came together.”
I knew Dan well. He was my close friend and housemate. To me, his friends, and his teammates, he was more than a golfer; he was an amazing friend. It’s almost impossible to put into words how important Dan was to so many. He was a truly kindhearted person who enjoyed nothing more than being with friends or talking about sports. He will forever be missed, and also, forever remembered.
With a view toward the future, the team always looks to pull in young talent, with Raimondi noting that a lot of people expressed interest and signed up at this year’s activities fair. “We had some people who had a low handicap,” he said. “If they are telling the truth, then it looks like we are going to have a flow of some pretty good golfers coming in.”
This influx of new players will be crucial for the team, especially if a Division I golf team is created. Pethigal and Raimondi both spoke about how this would affect the team, both acknowledging the fact that some players would be lost. Even if some players made a hypothetical Division I team, both are confident that the team will still find success and attract those who love golf. “We may lose some players, but we’ll continue to do our thing,” Pethigal said.
Pethigal will take over as president next fall, and is eager to do so. “The team chemistry is unreal,” he said. “With all the guys, we have such a fun time on the course. Even if the performance isn’t there that day, we still enjoy it out there every time.”
That cannot be denied. Over the past semester, the golf team has been on a long, winding journey filled with many ups and downs. As a team – no, as a family, they will continue to work hard and play for themselves, for each other, and Dan the Man.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane & Will Bjarnar