Striving for improvement and overcoming adversity were the name of the game for three members of the Southampton girls golf team that qualified to compete at the New York State Championships at the Deerfield Golf and Country Club near Rochester over the weekend.
In what was her second appearance at states, junior Caraline Oakley was hoping to improve upon her 20th place finish last season, while junior Mia Wilutis and eighth-grader Ella Coady, competing at states for the first time, had to step up and deal with tough weather conditions unlike anything they’d ever seen before in tournament play.
By head coach Kim Hannigan’s account, all three players succeeded. Oakley finished tied for ninth out of 108 golfers, which earned her All-State status—given to the top 20 finishers—for the second straight year. Only one other Long Island golfer played better than her, with Paige Diecidue of Smithtown West finishing sixth. Diecidue edged Oakley for the county title two weeks ago.
Oakley shot 8-over on the par 72 course on Saturday, with beautiful weather conditions. It all changed on Sunday, as torrential rain hammered the players for much of the morning. It was tough for everyone, thanks to a shotgun start. Although the weather cleared up around noon, there was still standing water in spots on the fairway and in bunkers, making conditions considerably more challenging than they had been the day before. Hannigan pointed out that while all players had to deal with the tough weather, it was arguably harder on the less experienced players, like Wilutis and Coady, who don’t have as much experience in junior tournament play as some of the older, more seasoned players, like Oakley, who have likely played in conditions like that before. It led to much higher scores on Sunday, but Hannigan said she did her best to boost the spirits of her players, and said she was proud of them for finishing their rounds.
“To watch these kids battle through that and persevere, you really felt for them,” she said. “At one point, Ella touched my hand and it was ice cold. The conditions were just awful, and the girls really had to adjust on the fly. I just kept reminding her that she’s young, she’s there as an eighth-grader and it’s a learning experience, and she’s going to hopefully have four more years there. I can’t see why she wouldn’t be there. She’s only going to get better, and stronger.”
Even without the bad weather conditions, Hannigan said the course was challenging, with narrow fairways, deep rough, and undulating greens.
“Some of the girls who normally shoot way under par, you didn’t see them do that this weekend,” Hannigan said.
Overall, she was happy to have three players represent the team, after only Oakley qualified last year. Wilutis was originally an alternate, but was able to participate after another player who had qualified after counties dropped out.
“It was great,” Hannigan said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them. It was a pleasure watching them, and for the most part, we saw smiles. All of their parents were there, and they represented [Section XI] well.”