Avon High girls varsity golf is 16-0 – a first for this stage in season, head coach Patrick Welkley said.
“It’s been a surprising season. The girls have played pretty well,” Welkley said. “This is unusual for us. We’ve had some very good teams in past, but for us to be undefeated at this point, we’re coming up on a tough time in our schedule where we might not be undefeated next week.”
The Avon Falcons have a lot of depth this season from the seniors to the underclassmen, shooting seven strokes better than last year.
“It’s been a really good year because we’ve had some inexperience on team and players from last year that have stepped up,” Welkley said.
For instance, sophomores Anna Grant and Leezy Laurova have been vying for the No. 5 slot, alternating throughout the season.
They both have done a great job for us at the number five slot. One of the policies I have for our team is that if they’re within average of each other, they can challenge if they’re not on varsity slot,” Welkley said. “It’s very competitive to get on varsity lineup this year versus other years.”
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Sophomore Marissa Grillo is a good example, holding the No. 1 golfer slot, and rightly so after earning a team record a few weeks ago. She shot a “35 even par” against Daniel Hand High School at Madison Country Club. Grillo also competed in the New England tournament last year, shooting a 79, the second best score of Connecticut golfers who participated.
Fellow sophomore Catherine Ponziani has had the “most surprising” performance this season, going from shooting low 60s her freshman year on junior varsity to reducing her average strokes by 10, Welkley said. She is the No. 4 golfer on the team.
“She has a great work ethic,” Welkley said.
Senior Alexa Gentille has also been “solid” as the No. 2 golfer, despite bouncing back from a back injury, Welkley said. She has been getting progressively better, he added.
Junior Alana Pulling has played a more consistent game than last year, Welkely said.
The program has come a long way since it started in 2000, the year before Welkley was hired as head coach. Back then, the team didn’t have an official league.
Former Avon golfer Autumn Serruta qualified for the state tournament in 2005, but got little recognition. So, Welkley collaborated with the Cheshire and Mercy coaches at the time to create what is now the Southern Connecticut Girls Golf League, which comprises Avon, Canton, Haddam-Killingworth, Suffield, Daniel Hand, Sacred Heart Academy, Cheshire and Mercy.
“It was all because of Autumn,” Welkley said, noting she went on to play Division 1 golf at Mount St. Mary’s University.
Having the league gives teams a chance to play in an 18-hole league tournament before states, as regular season games are nine holes.
With games against Berlin, Northwest Catholic and Greenwich coming up, Avon is waiting to see if the girls will be among the top 15 qualifying for the state tournament of the 56 teams statewide. Berlin and Farmington remain the toughest teams Avon faces, he said.
Avon has qualified for the state tournament as a team for the last six years.
Fist, the team has its eyes on a conference and league tournament title. At this rate, they have a chance.
“It’s been a very good season,” Welkley said. “It has to do with [how] they go out and they really play as a team even though it sounds strange, it’ an individual sport.”