The Niagara Frontier League isn't the only local high school golf underway.
Teams such as Newfane, Wilson and Royalton-Hartland are vying for the Niagara-Orleans League title, while Starpoint is off to a competitive start in the ECIC.
N-O matches began Sept. 26. Teams will play nearly every weekday until Oct. 16. The league tournament is slated for Oct. 17 at Willowbrook Golf Course.
Starpoint comes in as the county’s lone team in the ECIC. The Spartans look to improve off a 6-4 season where the team jumped from the small schools division to the large schools. Despite moving a very tough division, coach Joe Anastasi expected his "tough" team to be very competitive.
"We are a strong team from one to eight. The kids that can go low are Tyler Grimm, who is an eighth grader that shot 36 the other day, and Max Ciepiela, who is a senior," Anastasi said. "I also have others that play extremely consistent golf and have played for me since eighth grade and are now seniors, including Dillon Zdrojewski and Kyle Gibbons.
"Other strong seniors are Billy Casullo and Joey Cappellino. As far as strong underclassmen go, Drew Beiter, who is a 10th grader, has a smooth swing and Sean Schifferle is a junior who has shown great potential."
With a solid and experienced lineup for the 2020 season, Starpoint could make some noise in the ECIC. As of writing, the Spartans were out to a 2-0 start.
"I like how competitive the team is," he said. "Most (play) other sports, which contributes to their competitiveness. I've known most of the seniors since they have been real young — a few even played on my daughter's baseball team. They make me laugh and add some normalcy to a crazy year."
Additionally, like everyone else, Anastasia said it's great to see kids playing sports again.
"As difficult as this shortened season is, it's what is best for kids," he said. "They need the normalcy more than we do."
The Panthers and coach Michael Capen come in with confidence this fall. After winning just one match last season, the Panthers have already won two against some of the top teams in the N-O.
Capen’s squad returns five seniors, including Sam Capen — who has shot consistently as the team’s No. 1 — Trevor Heschke, Zach Murray, Denero Harrison and Cade Littman. Littman hasn’t been on the team since eighth grade, but since football was moved to spring, he decided to pick up the clubs.
Coach Capen said his team has put a lot of hard work this summer, as Sam Capen and Murray worked at the team’s home course, Willowbrook.
“The seniors have worked hard over the summer. Sam, on the days he wasn’t working, he was playing 36 holes,” Coach Capen said.
Heschke also plays for the Panthers boys soccer team, which Capen said will only cause him to miss two matches this season.
Overall, Capen expected big things from his seniors, he said. So far, they’ve put up good numbers on the scorecard.
“The kids are hitting their stride and they’re not slowing down,” Capen said. “The top guys have played and worked a lot on their games. I’m very pleased with how the season is going. And last year we only had one win, now in two matches we have two. So, hopefully we’ll contend for the league title this season.”
In addition to his team’s determination and strong work ethic towards golf, Capen said he enjoys how his group gets along very well, not just with teammates, but also opponents.
With five seniors, Capen added, “It feels great that they’re able to play. This is a sport where we can keep our social distance and abide by all the rules. We can handle all the circumstances going on with golf and they’re still able to have fun. I’m just so happy they can play.”
Last year’s N-O Tournament champ comes into 2020 with mixed expectations after losing some talented golfers.
Coach Mark Kurtz mentioned the likes of Lillie Sanborn, who was first in the league and went to sectionals year in and year out; Patrick Seeley, who was the fifth-ranked golfer in the league; and Josh Seider as key losses.
Despite the losses, the Lakemen return sophomore Nathan Meyer, who has been on the team since the seventh grade and was a all-league first-teamer as a freshman. Also back are Sam Georgal, Michael Bubar and Richie Meyers.
Kurtz said quite a few football players turned out for the team with their normal sport being pushed to spring.
“It’s been fun. They’re new to the game and some guys haven’t played much, but they see that golf is a fun game and something they can play for the rest of their life. They’ve only been at it two weeks, but they’re enjoying it,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz credited Newfane and Akron for their teams and expected them to finish Nos. 1 and 2 this season. He said he hopes his team, currently sitting at 1-2-1, can compete and fight for somewhere near the top.
“I like the competitiveness of this team. They all want to do well and they have the ability to keep playing and get better. And my assistant coach, Rich Meyers, has been a huge help to the kids. He does a great job,” Kurtz said.
Like many coaches, Kurtz was just happy to see a season come about.
“It’s nice, and you can see it in the kids and how much it means to them,” he said. “They’re getting that camaraderie and they can socialize and play a game at the same time. They’re excited to play and compete, and that shows in the numbers of us having 17 kids come out. The kids love to play.”
The Rams may be in a “reconstruction” phase, as head coach Mike Lang puts it, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of interesting talent in their lineup.
Lang’s daughter, McCarthy Lang, missed out on her second trip to sectionals last season due to the pandemic and has her sights set on earning another spot during her senior season.
A strong final year will help Lang join her brothers, Hogan (NC Central) and Murphy (NCCC) in the college ranks.
Nate Beyer, more known as a baseball player, came out for the team as a sophomore and has Mike Lang coach excited about his potential.
“(Beyer) doesn’t have a lot of experience, but his quick-learning and has a good swing,” Lang said. “If he sticks with it, he could be a pretty good golfer.”
Lang has been working to get his players as much experience as possible, including working with local pros. Thursday night, he had the Millers, former LPGA pro Cindy and her husband, Allen, who won a tournament back in the ‘70s on the PGA Tour and played in five Master's, out to Shell Ridge for practice.
“I’m like a 12-handicap. I don’t want to teach these kids my bad habits,” Lang joked. “I try to teach them lessons from people who know what they’re doing.”
The Rams have also worked with Jim Furlong, the head pro at Willowbrook.