Teams prepare for golf season

Published 10:14 pm Friday, July 29, 2016

By Henry Luzzatto


While the prestigious PGA championship pits the world’s best golfers against each other, Suffolk Public Schools’ own golf season is getting ready to begin.

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Suffolk’s three public high schools — Nansemond River, King’s Fork and Lakeland — will compete in golf matches beginning in August.

Nansemond River High School

While Suffolk’s public schools are better known for their track or football programs, Nansemond River High School’s golf team aims to compete with the best in the region.

Last year, Nansemond River’s golf team had a shake-up. The team had to adjust to a new coach, a new conference and a new classification. The school was moved up to the 5A classification because of its growing student body. The team was moved from the Ironclad Conference, which it had won the year before, to Conference 10. Additionally, the school brought in a new golf coach, Brandon Frye.

The Warriors had a successful season last year, placing third in the conference. Despite the success, Frye said, he and the team plan to push forward and accomplish even more this year.

“We’re going for second in the conference this year,” Frye said.

He said the team plans to win at least six of its nine matches in the regular season.

Frye has a wealth of talent at his disposal this season. He said 16 players plan to try out on Monday for the 10-person team. Most of the players on the team will be returning from last year.

Frye, who coached Lakeland High School before coming to Nansemond River, said this year’s team has promise.

“This is my third season coaching, and this is the most competitive team I’ve coached.”

Frye said the team’s potential success could come from golfers Isiah Marquez and Jack Wolfe, who are expected to compete for the No. 1 spot on the team.

“They’ve both improved their game over the summer,” he said.

Though the players have their sights set on success this season, Frye said a key part of his job as a coach is keeping them grounded.

“Golf is a mental game,” he said. “They can’t be worried about the next match, what the other players are doing. It’s key to just keep everybody grounded.”

While Nansemond River is poised to continue their success on the golf course, Suffolk’s other teams may have a tougher season ahead of them.

King’s Fork High School

King’s Fork High School’s golf coach Calvin Mitchell goes into this season with an inexperienced team.

He said he expects to have five or six players, but only one is returning from last season.

“We graduated three players, and one is working this year,” he said. “It’s always a challenge trying to work with a new team, but we were successful last year, and we hope to do well this year.”

Senior Tyler Branch is the team’s sole returning player. The rest of the players are new to the sport, Mitchell said.

“They’re going to have to learn the full basic skills, starting from the beginning,” he said.

Mitchell said he is focusing on teaching the newcomers the fundamentals of the game, ranging from correct swing technique to the rules of the game.

One of the key factors to make the inexperienced golfer play successfully is to teach him how to manage the game well and focus on his strengths, Mitchell said.

“The biggest thing is to work effectively around the golf course,” he said. “Not everybody can hit a driver or a three-wood, so we focus on how to play the clubs they know they can hit.”

Last season, King’s Fork placed fourth in its conference and sent three of its five golfers to regionals.

Mitchell said a recurring goal is to have the entire team qualify for regionals. However, failing this, he said he hopes to keep the team’s streak of sending at least one golfer to regionals since the school opened in 2004.

Mitchell said he and the school have talked about ways to increase participation in the golf team, including introducing the sport in physical education classes. However, he said, there are some factors that prevent golf from reaching the popularity of other sports in Suffolk.

“The first problem is that it’s expensive to play,” he said. “The second is the fact that our season begins before the school year starts, and by the time school starts, our season is three-quarters of the way over.”

Lakeland High School

While the golf team at King’s Fork may have issues getting enough attention to field a large team, its struggles seem small in comparison to what is happening at Lakeland High School.

Recently, Lakeland’s Facebook page posted a status asking for more golfers to sign up for the team. Despite the call for more participation, Lakeland’s golf team has dwindled to just two players.

“They had seven sign up last year, and five of them would have been returning players,” said Daniel Waller, the team’s coach. “Some of them had to work, and some of them decided to play football.”

Waller said he needs at least four players in order to post scores at the matches.

“We need some numbers,” he said. “We’re starting to push the panic button.”

Despite the team’s current problems, the Cavaliers’ two golfers have begun preparing for the season. Waller said the key to getting in shape for the season is getting in as many swings as possible before the season.

“We’ve been conditioning as much as possible before the season, but the limited numbers and the heat make it difficult.”

Regardless of whether Lakeland will be able to have a full golf team, the two players will participate in matches, and Waller expects them to do well.

“These two will be competitive right from the start,” he said. “They’ve been working hard on their game.”

Despite the possibility of an ineligible team, Waller said he is not giving up hope.

“There’s a possibility we won’t have enough people, but we’re doing as much as we can,” he said. “It’s not fair for the two players who have worked so hard if we can’t field a team.”