Saturday, December 03, 2022

Sports Person of the Week

Acquarulo Leads the Hornets on the Links


Senior captain Justin Acquarulo has been recording solid scores all season long for the Branford golf team this year. Photo courtesy of Justin Acquarulo

Senior captain Justin Acquarulo has been recording solid scores all season long for the Branford golf team this year. (Photo courtesy of Justin Acquarulo)

Justin Acquarulo has grown into a one-of-kind athlete as a member of Branford boys’ golf team. In his final year with the program, Justin has become one of the steadiest golfers in the league while guiding the Hornets to tremendous success as a senior captain.

Justin’s career in athletics didn’t begin with golf. There’s no story about him picking up a golf club when he was youngster. Instead, the first time that Justin swung a club was during his freshman year at Branford. After playing soccer, basketball, and lacrosse throughout middle school, Justin continued with basketball as a freshman. Following that season, Justin committed to trying a new sport by making a decision that was encouraged by his father.

“My parents wanted me to play a spring sport, but I didn’t really want to. My dad’s a big golfer, and he’s super into it,” says Justin. “So, I didn’t even want to play, but he kind of forced me to play golf and then, after that, I just got super attached to it, and I’ve just been playing a lot more than I ever had.”

Justin’s reluctance to play a spring sport made a 180-degree turn following his freshman season. Justin fell in love with golf like his dad and has only seen that passion grow stronger throughout his time with the Hornets. Justin has also made an effort to get more involved with his teammates and the community that they’ve formed through their efforts on the course.

“Freshman year, I was a lot more quiet, and I wasn’t really connected to the coach. I was friends with maybe two of my teammates,” Justin says. “As I knew more people and we started to grow a greater bond, we’ve become better friends. Coach and I got closer. She started giving me more tips. I feel like my game improved a lot more just by knowing everyone.”

Justin has made big improvements to his game while competing for the Hornets’ golf squad. Along the way, he’s formed connections with both his teammates and Head Coach Jen Kohut. Justin’s dedication toward getting better while working with teammates who’ve become his friends has helped him develop into a leader who they all look up to.

“He takes pride in the team. He’s like the go-to guy that gets them all together,” says Kohut of Justin. “I’m looking for him to bring his experience in the SCC Tournament and the State Tournament and share that with the younger guys.”

Branford finished the 2022 regular season with a record of 17-1 and took its only loss by just one stroke against Amity. Justin has been competing out of the No. 1 slot in the Hornets’ lineup and earned medalist honors multiple times as the low scorer in a match. Justin has carded several scores in the 30s, and those types of performances motivate his teammates to post solid scores behind him.

In addition to being a top golfer in the lineup, Justin is also taking on all of the responsibilities that come with being a captain this season. Consistently performing well and setting a good example for others is a huge part of the task. Justin likes using his personality to serve as the best leader that he can be for his teammates.

“In practice, they could rely on me to be pretty funny and not get down if I’m shooting bad or anything like that, just to lighten everyone up,” Justin says. “In matches, they could rely on me for support and a good score.”

Justin is hoping that his leadership throughout the season will contribute to a bright future for the Hornets, even beyond his time in the program.

“It means a lot just leading a great group of guys and then hopefully ending the season off on a good note, being a senior,” says Justin. “Hopefully, that influences them to do just as well next year.”

Justin takes great pride in his ability with his irons and wedges, but adds that he could still improve on his putting. Aside from any strengths and weaknesses, Justin feels grateful that he took a chance to try a new sport and step on the golf course. Justin has made many great friendships and memories during the past few years, and every one of them means a lot to him.

“You meet a lot of people on other teams, of course. Then the team itself—the coach is great, and the coaching staff is great, and then my teammates are all of my close friends,” Justin says. “It’s awesome to go out to practice with a bunch of my buddies and play nine and playing matches with them, as well.”

Justin will be taking his clubs to Springfield College in Massachusetts in the fall. Justin plans to study finance or marketing while competing for the school’s golf team. However, before looking too far ahead into the future, Justin has his eyes set on one final goal in his farewell campaign at Branford.

“What motivates me is seeing the other guys on the team do well, and definitely winning a state championship motivates me to shoot better, because that would be awesome,” says Justin. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

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