MHS girls’ golf becomes official

Cougars excited for first varsity schedule

By: Bob Nuse
   When an injury forced Eduardo Fernandez away from his No. 1 sport — basketball — he quickly found an athletic alternative that was just as rewarding.
   Fernandez discovered that golf was able to fill the competitive void quite nicely.
   "I’ve played for 12 years and worked at the Nike Camp over the summer," said Fernandez, who is the head coach of the Montgomery High girls’ golf team, which begins its first official season this year. "I love the sport. I switched over from basketball after I tore my quad muscle. I had to find a sport with low contact. When you play basketball you get a lot of the same sensations as golf. What fascinates me is that it is a different challenge with every shot. With the kids, they get to see the improvement they’re making from day to day and week to week."
   Fernandez is quite happy to share his experiences on the course with the 10 girls who make up the MHS team. Last year the Cougars played a modified schedule as an unofficial team. This year, they have a full 13-match schedule and will open the season at South Brunswick on April 4.
   "We started the program last year," said Fernandez, who was a volunteer coach for the Cougars last year. "We had 10 kids and we only played five matches, which were unofficial. Some of the teams would show up and they would have just two or three players. Or sometimes we would play a team of mixed boys and girls."
   That won’t be the case this year. Montgomery will take on a schedule that includes matches with full girls’ teams, something Fernandez is quite excited about. He’s also excited about the interest level, which is very high for a brand new program.
   "There are a few teams out there like Hunterdon Central," said Fernandez, whose team practices and plays its home matches at Mattawang Golf Club. "They’re one of the top programs in the state. We have a 10-match schedule against some good programs like South Brunswick, Moorestown and Hunterdon Central. We’re also going to play against Southern Regional and East Brunswick.
   "We had 18 girls try out and we had to cut eight. It was very enjoyable for me to see so many girls that were interested in playing. The sport is getting more popular and it is growing."
   The Montgomery roster consists of seniors Amanda Brach, Tiina Laupas, Danielle Erickson, Katie Drake and Meg Pinter, all of whom played on the team last year, along with sophomore Angela Chuang. The newcomers to the team are juniors Whitney Kelly, Dana Sayte, Kaytlin Zullo (Jr.), as well as freshman Meaghan Motherway. Last year’s team MVP, Brianne Osborne, is injured but expects to come back in 2006.
   "They’re very excited," Fernandez said. "Our problem at the moment is that a lot of the girls are just learning the game. They’re just playing on weekends on public courses. They’ve had two or three lessons. It’s not like they belong to a club and they play all the time. I have a freshman (Motherway) who is going to be very good.
   "We’re working right now on the fundamentals. We have to teach them the basics of the swing. You can see that they have a very good idea. In this area, we have a lot of good golfers. It’s a question of making the most out of the opportunities."
   In addition to the regular match schedule, Montgomery will play in the Hunterdon Central Tournament at Copper Hill on April 11. And the Cougars will also have the benefit of playing each day on a fine course like Mattawang.
   "Mattawang is a very nice course," Fernandez said. "It would have been too much to have two full teams using the same course, so we’re not at Cherry Valley with the boys. That would have been hard for the members."