Healthy Hawks building excitement on the links

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BEACON FALLS — Ross Cooper is excited. The Woodland golf coach thinks he has a solid group of returning golfers ready to tear up the links and make their presence felt in the Naugatuck Valley League.

Last year, Woodland was plagued by injuries. No. 1 player Anthony Memoli—who Cooper called “crucial” to the Hawks’ chances this year—was hurt as a junior. Another key player, Kyle Mascoli, suffered from both back problems and shoulder issues, which severely affected his game.

“We just didn’t have a lot of depth,” Cooper said of his team last season. “Our record was 7-9, so that was our worst record in a long time. Last year was really a building year. This year we should be a lot better.”

Cooper’s optimism is grounded in part to the fact that Memoli is fully recovered, strong, and playing his best game ever.

“He’s our number one, without doubt, and he’s going to be the anchor that holds the ship in place,” Cooper said. “He works really hard and it shows. His game is beyond my ability, at this point. But where I can help him is in the mental part of the game—his approach.”

Cooper emphasizes the short game. The focus of every day is putting, and his drills for daily practice revolve around it.

At the same time, he recognizes that Woodland’s home course, Oxford Greens, is a very long course, requiring a second shot that is longer than usual. Regardless, Cooper remained confident in his ability to help Memoli and company with their approach to that aspect of the game.

Cooper thinks this season can be another opportunity for the program to take a step forward with a strong core of returning players and opportunities to use different courses.

“Our program continues to grow and develop,” Cooper said. He said he enjoys Oxford Greens, the Pomperaug Golf Course, and especially Highland Greens, a supporter from the very beginning and where the team “really works the short game.”

Woodland’s No. 2 player, senior Nick Veneri, has been the team’s “unsung hero” for the past few years, Cooper said, and his skills are expected to shine through this season especially. The roster is rounded out by Mascoli, fully recovered as a senior, and juniors Pat O’Dell and Matt Greggis.

O’Dell’s younger brother, Andrew, is currently a freshman and a legitimate candidate for the No. 5 spot as well.

Cooper is looking forward to a great season with the goal of helping his team become mentally stronger and playing the course rather than the opponent. Because Woodland was below .500 last year, balancing the win-loss margin is another huge endeavor for the program.

“There are certain teams we like to beat,” Cooper added, “but the NVL is very competitive. Our goal match-to-match is to, as a team, score 180 or less. That’s our goal.”

Woodland is set to tee off the regular season on April 13 when it hosts Sacred Heart at Oxford Greens.