With 26 golfers on the roster, the Ridgway golf team is already having a banner year in terms of participation.
"We had around 20 golfers last year but we have a lot of talent returning in Eric Matheson, Jordan Lundin, Aaron Sorge," said Ridgway head boys varsity golf coach Dave Zawatski. "We had several players who wanted to do two sports, golf and football, and coach [Mark] Heindl and I both support that very much. We've gotten together to work out a schedule that allows the players to devote time to both sports and it's definitely a good thing, and we're going to make it work. We've made it work and we're looking forward to doing well.
"With the number of athletes that we have and the number of sports that we offer, it is what it is and we're going to make it work-- maybe it may not be considered the most ideal situation but if anyone can do it, it's these kids that we have playing on this team. When they're not playing football, they're up here playing golf and that's all you can ask of them."
The team boasts a strong core of returners, including Matheson, a senior two-year letterman, and fellow seniors Lundin, Sorge, Kyle Caggiano, and juniors Josh Mitchell and Jesse Reynolds.
"Josh Mitchell went to the district tournament last year and we look forward to continued success from him," Zawatski said. "We were pretty happy to have those three, Eric Matheson, Jordan Lundin and Josh Mitchell, and there is really no guarantee on who will go to districts because there are some quality players right behind them who are pushing them on a daily basis to improve even more.
"We do have a solid core right there."
Even with the loss of Dom Aiello, David Klein and Seth Feronti to graduation, Zawatski indicated during the preseason that one of the team's strengths will be depth but a downfall could be the lack of a consistent low round.
"We're going to miss Seth Feronti from last year because he gave us that one low round that you could count on-- you always knew he would be in the low 40s or high 30s consistently, and that was nice to always have in the bag," Zawatski said. "We don't really have that this year but what we do have is 12 or 14 players who are capable of hitting in the low 40s but I don't know if we have anybody capable of shooting par right now and that's where we're going to struggle against some of the area powerhouses-- those include the Stauffers in Bradford, Schlimm at ECC and Calvin Christoff at Johnsonburg.
"You play eight players and you count five, and I anticipate that we're going to be able to put together five decent scores every single time."
With a roster stacked with underclassmen, Zawatski said experience, or lack thereof, could be a deciding factor in determining the team's overall success.
"We have some players who are young and nervous but with the right pairings, some golfers become more comfortable," Zawatski said. "We certainly have some athletes on the team but we really don't have a player who plays just golf-- some are football first, golf second-- some are basketball first, golf second, and so forth.
"We could struggle early because some of the players didn't get a whole lot of practice in over the summer. Jesse Reynolds is back this year and he lettered two years ago, and he's had scores of 48, 43, and then a 36 recently, so already he's already coming around. Hopefully with the lack of practice over the summer, we all get up to speed around the fourth or fifth match of the year."
Another positive for the coaching staff has been the abundance of athletes present on the team.
"Some of the kids that I work with on the range are so athletic and you try to teach them the right things now so that they can build on that," Zawatski said. "Some of the younger players will learn as they go and it will be a struggle at times but hopefully they can be pretty solid by the end of the year.
"It's quite a game, it can be frustrating and very much a mental game. A lot of it is about confidence."
And as the team looks ahead to the 2011 campaign, Zawatski said one of the most meaningful contributions to the team might not come from countless hours of practice sessions or coaching, but rather from the members at the Laurel Mill Golf Course.
"We have 26 kids and being a small school and a small town, I am very proud of that," Zawatski said. "We're a small town with a nine-hole golf course and you can't put 26 kids out there on a nine-hole golf course without the complete cooperation from the club and Laurel Mill Golf Club has been fantastic in that regard.
"We appreciate the club and its members for accepting the high school team and they really cheer us on, and we'll always appreciate that. They really bend over backwards for us and it does not go unappreciated. We also invite anyone from the public to come up and sit at a hole, or walk with a group because they're always welcome here."
Zawatski will again be assisted this year by assistant coaches Gerry Stenta, Denny McMahon and Eric Herzing.
"Without those three guys I wouldn't be able to do this," Zawatski said, "and with 26 kids, we all work very well together."