PISCATAWAY, NJ -- While many sports teams at Piscataway High School this school year either didn’t have a season or went through/are going through their share of struggles on the court, field, or mat, the boys golf team is doing well on the greens.
Out to a 7-2 start, the Chiefs are on their way to earning the most wins in a season in more than a decade. Piscataway won 10 matches two years ago when it went 10-5, but the team has a chance to surpass that this spring.
“First, it has been a pleasant surprise to be doing as well as we are,” said head coach Rich Zirin, who started coaching in 2000 and is in his 19th season at the helm. “I had eight seniors last year, and we were poised to be very solid. It was a great disappointment that those kids didn’t get to have their senior year. I even made them T-Shirts that said ‘Undefeated Senior Season’ to make up for the disappointment. We have a group of new players this year mixed with one or two experienced returnees. Thankfully, the young players have been taking instruction well and have been able to apply it on the course.”
Piscataway won its first match of the season by four strokes, 225-229, against South Plainfield. It then followed it up with a 193-202 win over Woodbridge and a 177-207 victory against Iselin Kennedy at Raritan Landing.
After two losses on the road, Piscataway reeled-off four-straight wins against Spotswood and Edison in a tri-match (182-206), against North Brunswick (223-248), and again over South Plainfield (182-191).
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, practice time was limited. In fact, Piscataway had just one week of practice as a team prior to the season. Some members of the team were completely new to golf, which made it all that more challenging.
“We had basically a week of practice before our season started. It was very difficult,” Zirin said. “We only got on a course once before our first match, and that match was the first time two of my players had ever been on a course. A few of my kids were playing all winter long, or played a lot during the summer because of the pandemic, so their skills came back relatively quickly. The rest of the team was a blank slate, and it has been fun to watch them improve week to week.”
Sophomore Matyas Gloetzer, freshman Vinnie Novak, senior Austin Fash, senior Ishan Kalove, sophomore Max Klaus, and junior Aryansh Jain have all seen action for the Chiefs.
Klaus’ lowest score was a 42 on April 30 while he also shot a 43 on April 19. Jain’s three lowest tallies are a 42, 44, and a 45. He’s also shot a 47 and came in first with a 52 way back on April 14. Kalove has two scores of 42 to his name in addition to a 45.
Kalove is a three-year varsity player, Klaus, a second-year player although last season was cancelled, and Jain, even though he is a junior, this is his first year as a golfer.
“Ishan played all winter long and has been leading the team,” Zirin said. “Aryansh emailed me and told me that he played a lot of golf during the pandemic and was thinking about switching from volleyball to golf. I conferred with the volleyball coach and we agreed that he should take his shot at golf. He has been our second best scorer consistently. With Max, I wasn’t all that sure what he could do. He worked on his game on his own and has been a pretty consistent scorer in our victories. Vinnie has a lot of natural athleticism, but his golf swing was all wrist, and he couldn’t seem to apply what I was telling him the first couple of weeks. But then it clicked in and he has shown great improvement and cracked the starting lineup.”
After the 2020 campaign was canceled before it got started, being out on the golf course has been a welcomed sight for both the players and Zirin himself. It makes the success the Chiefs are having even that more notable.
“I cannot express how great it feels to be out every day interacting with and instructing the kids on the game. I truly missed it,” Zirin said. “I played a lot during the pandemic, and would find myself giving ‘coaching’ to my friends, or even strangers who I was matched up with on the course. I realized how much I like teaching the game.”
The golf team has been the best thing going athletics wise at the high school this academic year. The Chiefs have a few regular season matches to go with sectionals on either May 10 or 11. The Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament begins on May 20.
Finishing out the season strong is key, and staying focused is a main priority. Right now, Piscataway leads the GMC-White division with a 6-2 mark. Colonia is 6-2 within the division and Woodbridge is 3-2.
“In order to continue our success, we just need to keep mental focus. When the kids don’t play well, it isn’t because of lack of skill or difficulty of the course, it’s because they lose focus and don’t have a good plan,” Zirin said. “A good golfer knows how to ‘scramble’ and keep his/her score low, even when they aren’t striking the ball well. If we can keep our focus, we will continue to win, and we will qualify for states this season for the second time in a row. I believe that we have a strong chance to win our division, which hasn’t happened in over 50 years.”
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Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.
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