NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck High golf team comes into the season looking for a new beginning.
Former head coach Craig Blanchard stepped down last season after 22 years on the links. Blanchard guided the ‘Hounds to their best record in the last 10 years putting up a 17-7 ledger and finishing fifth in the NVL tournament.
The golf bag is going to be a little light this season for new coach Bob Clark. Naugatuck graduated eight seniors, including four of its top five starters. Clark, the head pro at Hop Brook Golf Course, certainly knows his way around the bunkers and is looking to impart that knowledge to his young team.
“We took a little bit of a hit with graduation,” Clark said. “Craig Blanchard did a great job with the team over the years, but I’m looking to take us to the next level.”
Clark has high expectations for the program.
“I want us to be competing with the Watertown and Holy Cross teams and playing for an NVL title,” he said. “I’m not stopping there. I want us to advance in the states and win a championship. That hasn’t been done around here in 52 years.”
The excitement and enthusiasm of the new coach will only fuel the fire of competition among the young group of golfers. Naugatuck will rely on senior captains P.J. Murphy and Erica Spino along with junior captain Jake Alcorace to lead a new beginning for the Greyhounds on the links.
“The key to success in this game is consistency,” Clark said. “You are not going to pick up the golf club in April and put in down in October and expect to be a successful golfer.
“It’s a process that needs to be consistent. Even when the weather doesn’t cooperate in the winter you need to continue to do the little things that will keep you on your game.”
Junior Nick Fox and sophomore Kody Butler have been putting in the work and will be in the mix to fill some of the voids left by graduation. Clark is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to put the Greyhounds at the top of the leaderboard come the end of the season. Colin Sheedy, who was on the track and field team last spring, will be one of the starters for the Greyhounds.
The coach is also high on the prospects of three freshmen who he feels will put new life into the program. Freshman Ally Pruchnicki, Hannah Butler and Sam Royka have been making great strides with the help Spino.
With the start of the season a little more than a week away, the Greyhounds are focused on staying sharp, mentally and physically.
“Conditioning is imperative in order to get the most out of your efforts,” Clark said. “I’m not looking at results as far as scores go right now. That will come. What we need to do is get into condition both physically and mentally.
“In order to stay competitive we need to be mentally ready to stay in the moment and not lose your focus. Play each shot in the moment and stay focused. It’s the little things that will make you successful and not let this game get away from you.”
Alcorace will be the number one based on his experience and success, followed by Murphy. From there the coach sees a solid group of young players equal to the task of filling in the final spots in the starting lineup.
“We have golfers who are right on the cusp,” Clark said. “We have a lot of interchangeable parts and even though we have our work cut out for us, I’m looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding this program.”
Naugatuck will have its hands full when they start the season. The Greyhounds are scheduled to host Sacred Heart April 20 to open the season. The rest of the first week of the season will be a grueling test as Naugy will take on two-time NVL champions Holy Cross on April 21 and last year’s NVL runner-up Watertown on April 23.