What started as an idea that head coach Brandt Hacker joked about in his algebra class two years ago is now an official varsity sport. The Cedar Golf Jags are ready to hit the links for their first full season of competitions and tournaments.
There had been a golf team at Cedar Shoals in the early 2000s, but it quickly diminished due to lack of interest. Hacker is excited to revive the golf team because of the opportunities that come with playing it.
“Golf is such a great sport because, unlike other sports, you could play it by yourself and against your past performances,” Hacker said. “If you learn how to play in high school, then throughout college and all the way into your 70s and 80s, you can still have fun playing golf. It’s a good thing for people to start young because it will pay dividends in the long run.”
The golf team first started practicing at the University Golf Club in 2019 but only participated in one competition against Clarke Central. The team scheduled a full season of competitions last year, but they were all canceled after COVID-19 shut down their season in early March.
One of the original players and the main recruiter who helped the golf team return is junior Michael Niedzwiecki-Castile. While Niedzwiecki- Castile has some prior experience as a golfer, he feels like his skills have improved.
“The whole team has improved drastically since we first started playing for Cedar,” Niedzwiecki-Castile said. “Freshman year, none of us had ever swung a club. The closest thing to golf we had done was play putt putt. Going from complete ineptitude, hopelessly swinging full strength with some of the worst form I’ve ever seen and not making consistent contact to playing nine holes against other experienced teams has been a big leap.”
The young program will need strong showings by Niedzwiecki-Castile, senior Knox Huff and junior Ethan Montgomery to stay competitive. Hacker credits Niedzwiecki-Castile’s role as a motivator for keeping the team intact and confident going into competitions.
“He’s a really positive guy who enjoys learning how to play golf and enjoys teaching others what he has learned,” Hacker said. “Having someone as pushy enough as him to make sure the players are showing up to practice and encouraging new members to join who normally wouldn’t has been great to have.”
After their first competition on March 8 against Chestatee, Hacker said the pressure of having too much time to think about their shots got to them but that they played well overall. The team lost the competition by 45 strokes but had another crack at Chestatee on March 23 where they only lost by 18 strokes. Freshman Dodd Ferrelle had the lowest overall score of any player in both competitions. The team looks to gain competition experience against Oglethorpe County and Clarke Central before the Athens Area Golf Tournament which is at the end of the season.