On Friday, the Southampton/Pierson girls golf team got caught in an unexpected rainstorm just minutes into practice at Poxabogue Golf Course. Most teenagers would be ready to put the clubs away and go home, but head coach Kim Hannigan said it was just the opposite with her players.
Not long after the rain subsided, the Lady Mariners were back out on the greens practicing. Hannigan said a simple decision to get back out there speaks to her team’s strong drive and willingness to improve every day, which has fueled its historic start. The Lady Mariners finished off another undefeated League IV regular season to win the league title for the second year in a row, and have started their varsity program 24-0 in league play.
“We ran in under a tent until the downpour subsided, but the girls were still in good spirits, laughing about it, trying to make the best of it,” Hannigan explained. “And we even talked about it. Hey, you know what, the greens could be wet and they could be slower in a couple weeks when we go to counties at Middle Island, so it was a good situation to practice and be able to adapt to the conditions.”
Southampton will send six of its top golfers to the Suffolk County Girls Golf Championships on May 20-21 at Middle Island Country Club. It will be looking to dethrone Sayville as county champion and qualify for the state tournament. Individually, Southampton junior Caraline Oakley will be looking to repeat as county champion.
Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips said that in his 18 years in the district, no team has ever gotten off to the start the girls golf team has, and one might be hard pressed to ever find a program that has come out of the gates so strong in Suffolk County.
“Most teams, they first start out in a varsity sport and you take your lumps for a number of years before you start to turn things around,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to have some very good golfers, and it is sort of a niche sport. A lot of girls play lacrosse or softball in the spring, and many schools don’t even have girls golf, but if you look at the scores our team has been winning by, it’s 8-1, 9-0, and that’s losing a key girl to St. Anthony’s, so we should be good now for a couple of years. Caraline is a big part of that.”
A dip in play was understandably expected when Kaitlyn Browne, the Lady Mariners’ second-best player, transferred to St. Anthony’s in the offseason. But Hannigan and Oakley said the younger players on the team stepped up and improved their game to the point where they actually haven’t missed Browne’s play all that much.
“I think for some of them, losing Kaitlyn to St. Anthony’s was a big loss, but players like Ella Coady, Mia Wilutis, Caroline Wilutis, they’ve all certainly stepped up and filled in where Kaitlyn left off. Keira Gil, Hailey Marcincuk, the three Pierson girls, Emma Krasewski, they’ve all improved and it has definitely been a great bunch of girls to work with. They all have great work ethics. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Oakley said from a player’s perspective, the team knew it was going to have to step up with Browne no longer on the team.
“I am just so incredibly proud of my team,” she said. “After last year, and coming out with the bang that we did, we were still confident coming into the season, but we were a little bit worried. We had lost this great player in Kaitlyn, but Ella Coady has stepped up so much to take her place, and then Mia at third. After our first match, and we saw how much everyone improved, we were like, ‘We got this.’
“Honestly, I never expected it to be as fun as it has been,” Oakley added. “I knew we would be a good team when we started, but I never expected us to do this well. It’s been an absolutely amazing experience.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Southampton will be practicing and continuing to improve its game in preparation for counties. Sayville, along with Smithtown West, will be tough teams to beat, but Oakley said the team will be holding at least one practice in Middle Island to get used to the course, and she’s looking forward to the competition.
“We have a pretty good plan going forward, but a huge part of it is our bond as a team,” she said. “We’ve always supported each other. We’ve grown so much. Part of our plan is to keep that all going. It’s full force ahead, and no matter what happens, everyone is proud of one another, and that’s a great feeling to have to keep our energy going.”