No longer a joke: Golf Jags hit the links

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. 

Working on the Mid-Range: Cedar Shoals golfer Michael Niedzwiecki- Castile hits a mid-range shot during practice at the University Golf Course. Niedzwiecki- Castile hopes to improve his short and mid-range game this season to become a more well-rounded golfer. “My goal for this season is to get more consistent in these two areas of my game because there has been some showing of competency in between long periods of hitting out of the woods and rough so I just need to figure out my ranges,” Niedzwiecki- Castile said. Photo by Alexander Holland.

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.

Jacob Weiszer

Senior Jacob Weiszer is the Sports Editor for BluePrints Magazine. Weiszer is interested in pursuing a career in business or pre-law. Outside of school, Weiszer enjoys playing soccer and spending time with his friends. This year he hopes to cover a broad range of stories related to sports and the entire Cedar community. Weiszer also looks forward to working with his fellow editors and staff reporters to develop meaningful stories. The thing Weiszer enjoys the most about being a member of the journalism staff is being able to collaborate with his peers to cover important issues in the community.