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Junior captain Jack Walsh and the Old Saybrook golf team came in third place in the Shoreline Conference after going 11-5 this spring. Walsh earned All-State and All-Shoreline Conference First Team accolades, along with 10 medalist honors on the campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Junior captain Ben O’Dell and the Rams tied for third place at the Shoreline Conference Championship in the 2019 season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Matt Rothman helped Old Saybrook finish in a tie for sixth place at this year’s Division IV State Championship. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
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The Old Saybrook golf team had some unexpected success this season when expectations were to focus on development. The Rams graduated three seniors and only four golfers who had previous experience on the links. Still, Old Saybrook tied for third place with Hale-Ray in the Shoreline Conference Tournament and finished the year third place in the Shoreline with an 11-5 overall record. At the Division IV State Championship, the Rams tied for sixth place with Holy Cross.
Head Coach Curtis Gullette was impressed by his team’s desire to prove themselves in the Shoreline Conference. Even though Gullette told his golfers that results weren’t the main focus this year, the Rams were able to improve their game through hard work, and positive results came with it.
“We graduated three seniors last year. It was a big change from last season to this season. We outperformed my expectations though,” said Gullette. “Going into the year, I told the kids this was a building year. They shrugged it off and said they were going to do their best this year. It was all their effort and hard work that made it happen.”
At the beginning of the season, Old Saybrook looked like they may have difficulty collecting a full set of golfers for matches. As a result, junior captains Jack Walsh and Ben O’Dell—who were the team’s only returning starters—took the initiative to convince their classmates to come join the team.
“We basically started the season with only six total golfers. Those six went out and recruited, and then we ended up with plenty of kids. We basically had four golfers who had really played before,” said Gullette. “Jack Walsh and Ben O’Dell were my co-captains, and they were the ones who spearheaded the recruiting. They had a great way about igniting a bit of fire under the rest of the team.”
Walsh and O’Dell played a huge role in the Rams’ 11 victories this year. Walsh earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team as well as All-State honors and shot +3.88 differential on the season. Coach Gullette thought that Walsh has improved so much since his freshman year, and has even more room to grow next season.
“Jack’s actually been on the varsity team since his freshman year. It’s his third season and he’s gotten better and better throughout his career,” said Gullette. “He has turned into a really consistent all-around golfer. He had ten medals this year, and he was consistently the best golfer in all aspects this year.”
Fellow junior captain O’Dell’s game was also integral to Old Saybrook’s solid season. O’Dell garnered All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors. Coach Gullete believes that O’Dell’s biggest asset is his athleticism. That coupled with his relentless desire to improve his game make him a dangerous opponent.
“I think Ben is the most athletic kid at Old Saybrook High School. His short game can struggle at times, but he’s just an athlete. He can hit the ball wherever he wants,” Gullette said. “Some days he’s really on though. He shot a +4.9 differential, which was something he really worked at. You have to be sub-5.0 to have a chance at All-State, and he was able to meet that in his last match.”
Even though the Rams didn’t have many seasoned golfers, they had enough consistency in their top four to have a shot at winning every match. That also allowed the less experienced players to just work on improving.
“In our 16 matches as a team, we had the medalist 15 times. We only had four golfers count most of year, but there’s depth within that four,” said Gullette. “We had probably about six to eight that it was really their first time playing. They were there to practice and get better and keep their interest to improve over the season.”
Another of main four golfers that often counted in the Old Saybrook’s matches was sophomore Matt Rothman. Gullette counted Rothman as another of the Rams’ better athletes, and he turned in some quality performances as he worked to become more consistent.
“Matt’s a very good athlete. He played goalie for the state championship soccer team this past season. When you look at his scores, he could get to be a medalist, but at times he would shoot in the 50s. It was a struggle for him sometimes, but he worked at it. He had a job at Black Hall Country Club, and that’s helped him work on his game.”
Garrett Brady rounded out Gullette’s main quartet. Coach Gullette respected Brady’s desire to boost his skills, and Brady kept the Rams’ spirits up on the links. Gullette believes Brady will get even better over the next two seasons.
“Garrett Brady is the coolest kid to be around, and he’s got a great sense of humor. He had a lot of energy for the team this year,” said Gullette. “He’s a relentless worker. He would stay with me after practice for an hour to work on putting and chipping. He really wants to great. He’s got two more seasons left, and he had an excellent showing states.”
Filling out the rest of the Rams’ regular competitors were junior Garrett Hilger, sophomore Dan Fox, and freshman Riley Lawson. They would often
“Garret Hilger is another athletic guy who was a pole vaulter. He played the five for most of the year.
Dan Fox played at the six, and he is slowly getting better. He fell in love with the game over the last year, and it’s been good for him,” said Gullete. “Riley Lawson would play the five or six depending on the match. They’re all very capable of good scores. The nice thing is that the whole team comes back next season.”
As for the future, Coach Gullette believes that his team is on the rise in the Shoreline Conference and the state draw. His belief was confirmed by many of his fellow coaches when he spoke with them at states this year. Ultimately, Gullette believes that what the Rams accomplished this season will stick with them for a long time.
“As we left the state tournament, numerous coaches were saying that we were the team to watch next year. We don’t graduate any players and a lot of the teams ahead of us are senior heavy. There will always be surprises, but we hope to be top three, and the ultimate goal is the state championship” said Gullette. “This season helped them build a lot of great habits that last the rest of their life. All those things really led to a great season, but what they learned will last a lot longer. I think that’s the ultimate goal.”
From the Sidelines
The Old Saybrook golf team’s varsity roster this season included junior captains Ben O’Dell and Jack Walsh; junior Garrett Hilger; sophomores Garrett Brady, Zach Coty, Dan Fox, Carter Gibson, Trey Martin, and Matt Rothman; and freshman Riley Lawson.
Curtis Cullette completed his third season as head coach of the Old Saybrook golf team.
The Rams’ wins this year came against Morgan (158-182 and 193-209), North Branford (176-257), Hale-Ray (179-183), Haddam-Killingworth (162-196 and 156-179), Valley Regional (172-224), East Hampton (156-209), Cromwell (169-180), Old Lyme (170-185), and Waterford (167-177).
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