Ridgway boys golf celebrated the season with a banquet Sunday night at Laurel Mill Golf Club.
"As we get together to close out the season, as the head coach I can only hope that it was an enjoyable experience for everybody involved," Ridgway boys golf head coach Dave Zawatski said. "Records, scores and streaks which will soon be forgotten aside, I learned long ago that it is the memories of the 'journey' that will always be cherished. When I look back on the season down the road, I will most definitely have a ton of good memories."
Ridgway finished the season with a 10-3 record and had five seniors on the team this season.
"Our seniors Kyle Caggiano, Jordan Lundin, Eric Matheson, Alex Oknefski and Aaron Sorge showed what you are capable of when you put forth an honest effort," Zawatski said. "They are to be commended and they will be sadly missed."
Oknefski was the recipient of the scholar-athlete award.
Zawatski spoke about the potential shown in juniors Josh Mitchell and Jesse Reynolds. Mitchell had the low average for the team this season with a 42.3 and was medalist three times this season.
"A couple of juniors, Josh Mitchell and Jesse Reynolds, took their athletic ability and raised their game to another level," Zawatski said. "What they may not know is there are probably five more levels to go as the potential for these two young men is through the roof."
Zawatski then spoke about a quartet of players who showed great determination and passion for golf this season.
"It seemed like there was not a day this summer that Mitchell Gilmore, Jake Klawuhn, Matt Aiello and Sam Delhunty weren't playing or hitting balls at the range," Zawatski said. "It is that kind of dedication and work ethic that will help this group step up next year."
A pair of newcomers became instant contributors for the Elkers this season.
"Two freshmen, Josh Roselli and T.J. Schlimm, they broke on to the scene in a big way," Zawatski said. "It was a pleasure to watch them take everything in and not be intimidated at all. Knowing that they are determined to excel, their careers look to be very bright."
Zawatski spoke about his group of juniors and two in particular were JoJo Jaques and Tony Leithner.
"They are a pair of juniors who I have the utmost respect for," Zawatski said. "They make the team better just by being a part of it. They make coaching a pleasure."
Dan Connelly and Matt Johnson are two more juniors which Zawatski enjoys to coach.
"They are a pleasure to have around and I hope they continue to play and develop their golf games," Zawatski said.
A group of newcomers came to the team this year and he spoke of four of them that he thinks have really enjoyed the game of golf.
"A group of first-year players, Mason Stark, Dakota Dworsky, Dustin Reed and Mike Popson, who seem to have really taken to the game. Next year should be much more rewarding for them."
Three freshmen were on both the golf and junior high football teams.
"A trio of freshmen, Cody Delhunty, Luke Pierce and Mike Sorge, were members of the golf team and a very successful junior high football team," Zawatski said. "The practice times made it tough for them to do both this season but I respect them for their dedication and making it to golf whenever possible. I hope they continue to do both because they are great kids with a ton of potential."
Zawatski also had two eighth-grade managers on the team, Mitchey Stark and Cory Oknefski.
"They will be ready to make the jump to contributing freshmen next season," Zawatski said. "It was nice to have them around and a pleasure to watch their games develop."
Zawatski expressed his appreciation to the parents and the booster club along with Laurel Mill Golf Club, the members and staff and manager Tracey Dickant.
Zawatski was assisted in coaching by Jerry Stenta, Eric Herzing and Denny McMahon.
"I could not find a better group to work with," Zawatski said. "It has truly been my pleasure to be able to coach alongside of Eric these past two years. To watch him grow as a player, coach and person will be one of my fondest memories. Jerry and Denny were two guys that I respected a great deal growing up and after working with them, I respect them even more."
Zawatski spoke about the season and how the season started.
"It was not an 'easy' season," Zawatski said. "A day before the first official practice, I received a phone call that our five senior golfers wanted to play both football and golf. I was all for it because I knew what these kids stood for and that the high school years are some of the best years of one's life and you only get one chance to live those years."
A total of 27 signed up for the team with 12 playing football either on the varsity or junior high levels.
"I knew we would make it work because I had the utmost confidence in the character of the people involved," Zawatski said.
Ridgway finished with 24 on the roster. A total of 17 started in a match and six different match medalists this season. There were 12 different players that had a finishing score count in the team results. Ridgway was fifth at districts and has won 12 straight home matches. Zawatski said he most proud of the cooperation between many different people and groups.
"I am most proud of the cooperation that this season took," Zawatski said. "Cooperation between our athletic director, Manny Barbazzeni, our head football coach, Mark Heindl and myself," Zawatski said. "The cooperation between the Laurel Mill Golf Course and our players and coaches, the cooperation between the coaches and that record number of players and the cooperation amongst the parents, players and coaches."
Zawatski said he didn't consider telling the 2-sport athletes they had to choose one sport or the other.
"It would have been easy to tell those seniors and other players to make a decision, golf or football, but why?" Zawatski said. "Would it have been more fair to those only playing golf? Perhaps. However, that was never an issue, we came together and set a precedent, if you will. A precedent that you will only see at Ridgway."
Zawatski hopes the players will take some life lessons from the season.
"In this game that so resembles life, I hope you stick with it and continue to improve," Zawatski said. "On those rare days when everything is going right, go low. On those other, much more numerous days, when nothing goes right and the harder you try, the worse it gets, grind. It is on these days that you learn most about yourself. Take your shortcomings and make them strengths. Don't become content with just going through the motions. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Be honest, be courteous, be respectful but play to win."
Lundin and Reynolds each had averages of 42.8. Matheson had an average of 44.7 and Roselli was at 44.9 to round out the top five. Reynolds was a 2-time medalist while Lundin, Matheson, Roselli and Aiello each were medalist once.
The team members for the golf team this season were:
n Seniors: Kyle Caggiano, Jordan Lundin, Eric Matheson, Alex Oknefski, Aaron Sorge.
n Juniors: Matt Aiello, Dan Connelly, Matt Johnson, JoJo Jaques, Tony Leithner, Josh Mitchell, Dustin Reed, Jesse Reynolds.
n Sophomores: Sam Delhunty, Mitchell Gilmore, Jake Klawuhn, Mike Popson, Mason Stark.
n Freshmen: Cody Delhunty, Dakota Dworsky, Luke Pierce, Josh Roselli, T.J. Schlimm, Mike Sorge.
n Managers: Cory Oknefski, Mitchey Stark.