GHS Golf Enters New Era
Senior Caitlin Garland (left) and sophomore Morgan Peterson are guiding GHS girls golf this spring
First-year head coach Ken Barse has already put his stamp on the girls’ golf program at Glastonbury High School.
The longtime ice hockey coach at the school took over the golf program in the offseason, giving the team an invigorating, fresh approach to the game.
“When people are passionate about what they do, it’s hard not to be excited about it,” said Barse, who has been a fan and played the sport since he was a teenager. “I learned a long time ago that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. I’ve been trying to implement all those little things to make it a better experience for them. That’s my number one goal as a coach to maximize their experience.”
Through three meets the team is playing with passion and purpose, which has led to two wins in three contests.
Senior captain Caitlin Garland is helping guide the Guardians on and off the course. She began playing golf last year and has steadily improved as both a player and a leader.
“I’ve felt very comfortable being my second year and knowing all the girls. I just want to be very supportive,” said Garland. “I feel like being the oldest is really strange, but I’ve tried to take them under my wing.”
After a year of high school competition, Garland quickly shifted from first-year player to being a veteran voice on a team that features a talent crop of young talent who are posting great numbers of the links.
Barse said that Garland has been a leader by example, offering endless support, “They are all sisters and that is how she has approached it. Caitlin is always so positive and it’s nice to see how she interacts with the younger girls.”
Sophomore Morgan Peterson has been the medalist in the team’s two wins, posting a 42 in a win over South Windsor on April 6 and a season-low 39 in a win over East Hartford on April 20.
“Last year it was kind of a rough year with Covid still happening, but we all got closer as the year progressed and that has helped us this year,” Peterson said. “This year the atmosphere has gotten 10 times better. We’re on the course so much more and everyone is so encouraging.”
Barse said he has been impressed by both Peterson’s abilities and maturity on the course.
“To be able to handle the pressure she puts on herself is impressive,” added Barse. “It’s not only her skill and mental toughness but it’s her work ethic that stands out to me. She wants to keep working.”
Senior Paige Annecchino and freshman Sofia Cirillo bookend a varsity lineup that also features four other sophomores: Maya Manzotti, Neeyor Devtale, Riley Savidge, and Kara Anderson.
Barse calls the team his “Scottish Girls” because of their willingness and want to play in any conditions. He recalled one of the team’s first practices was in driving wind and rain, so Barse took a picture of the girls practicing in the adverse condition and showed his wife later that day.
“She said ‘I cannot believe you found a bunch of girls that are as crazy about this game as you are’,” recalled Barse. “They were out there in the freezing rain and still playing and having fun. Every time I give these kids an option to take the day off or practice, they always want to play.”
This spring is a unique season for girls’ golf around the state. Many boys’ programs, including the team at GHS, moved to fall competition, putting the spotlight solely on girls this spring.
Barse said that it is nice to see the sport getting the attention that it deserves, adding that the Glastonbury Hills Country Club---where the team plays and practices---has shown great support to the program and “rolled out the red carpet” for the team.
Working on the mental part of the game has also been an emphasis for Barse.
Garland said that Barse has stressed the mental game, even sending the team a relaxation video to watch to help them get ready for competition.
“He’s so involved. It’s been amazing,” Garland said of having Barse as the coach. “I feel like everyone is very spirited. If someone shoots a bad shot the other players will try to relax them and calm them down. We are just very good together.”
Peterson added, “Everything is revamped. Coach is always excited to be here. He always has so much energy to start practice.”
Both Garland and Peterson added that the goal for this year is to keep individual scores as low as possible in an effort to keep the team’s overall score under 200, which they have done in the two wins.
The decreasing scores are great, yet it’s another aspect that Barse is most proud of.
“The best part about those first three matches is that one of the opposing coaches said after the match that the girls were good golfers, but they are great people. That’s the ultimate compliment,” said Barse. “They are so kind to their opponents and they are just having fun.”
Barse noted that even after the team’s loss to Berlin on April 18, the team remained upbeat and were ready to move on. So much so that on the bus ride home, the team stopped for ice cream.
“One of the best parts about my life was being a part of a team. It’s not so much the wins and losses, because those are easily forgettable, but it’s the bond they make with each other,” said Barse. “They pull for each other. They are such kind girls and the laughter is non-stop.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin