NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck’s golf program, headed by Coach Craig Blanchard, came in fifth last year in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament.
The past, though, is the past, said Blanchard.
“So far away,” he said.
Blanchard did recall a particular victory over Sacred Heart enthusiastically, since the Hearts had beaten Naugatuck earlier in the season last year. His sights were set more on the future though he, asserting comically, no longer made predictions on whom the team will beat or how the players are going to perform.
“Well, obviously we’d like to perform better than we did last year,” Blanchard said. “I have a lot of seniors returning and that’ll be good. I’ve got two senior captains returning and they’re pretty good players.”
Tim Fleck and Mike Leona, the two senior captains, will both play the No. 1 spot, interchanging every other match. Aaron Johnson is looking like a solid candidate for the No. 3 position, so long as he, as he has been working to do, “improves a little bit and plays his game just a little bit better,” said Blanchard.
Blanchard is currently looking for a four and five to compliment the first three, but it is simply too early in the season to make the call.
Despite the weight that Fleck and Leona pull for the team, Blanchard is adamant that those two can’t carry the whole squad.
“You can’t depend on a number one and a number two,” Blanchard said. “You’re only as strong as your weakest link. It really comes down to four of the five guys that you play—and maybe even five of the five—have to be pretty decent to beat teams like Holy Cross, Watertown or Wolcott.”
This is not to mention that the last team on that list, the league champion of last year, will have all its players returning. Blanchard cited some other disadvantages for Naugatuck, including how “perennial teams”—like Holy Cross—have many players who are also members of the Watertown Golf Club as the players, though attending privately at Holy Cross, reside in Watertown. In addition, the Watertown team plays out of Crestbrook, which runs a fairly large program out of its 18-hole facility. Naugatuck continues to pay gratitude to Hop Brook, where the team regularly practices.
In the end, past seasons, future predictions, and certain disadvantages have to give way to the game itself which, for Blanchard, comes down to the fact that a player is only as good as his short game.
“Chipping and putting,” Blanchard said. “You can hit a 300-yard drive and then miss a three-foot putt, and they both count the same.
You don’t have to be Godzilla and hit it a long way, but you have to make that three or four-foot putt every time.
“We’re going to try to do our best,” Blanchard added. “Always do.”
The Greyhounds are set to start their season on April 13 against Kennedy at Western Hills.