Highlight performances, both on an individual level and on a team wide basis were ever present for the 2021 West Milford High School golf program.
“One of the standout accomplishments from this past season has to be how well the team played at both our Division Day and at the Big North (Conference Tournament),’’ West Milford head coach Joe Petrosi said. “With a rocky season, and numerous matches at the beginning of the season against some amazing teams, I was worried my guys were getting a bit disheartened.
“But then we came in third at our Division Day within the Independence League and third again at the Big North with eight teams present. In just these two days, at the end of the season, I saw that these kids may have lost some early matches, but they had learned so much and given their all-and it showed.’’
Proper guidance on and off the course for the Highlanders was an important positive factor this past season.
Leaders on the greens
“Oakley Vacca, a junior, may be soft spoken but that other players still gravitate towards him,’’ Petrosi said. “He is helpful, mature and for someone who has not played as long as some of the others has quickly gained a good deal of skill and experience.
“Michael Petronaci, also a junior, was also an obvious choice [as captain]. The team listens to what he says, they respect him when he has input and he does have a great deal of experience. Mike also started a little rocky this season, and was able to focus and fine tune his game so much that his average improved nearly ten points from season start to stop.
“Michael Snyder, a sophomore (was another leader). The team had no seniors, so I honestly thought for captains I would just look to my juniors, Vacca and Petronaci. It was a benefit that they were a natural fit. However, Snyder is one of the best golfers I have ever seen. He knows the sport inside and out, gives input to other players, helps them understand what to do and when. Honestly, I typically try to look for growth across a season, but he was already so impressive I could not help but also promote him to co-captain for his junior season while Vacca and Petronaci become seniors.’’
Petronaci was among the most improved players on the roster this year.
“While many of the players had a slight fluctuation in their records, Michael Petronaci and Bryce Clark had the biggest improvements across the season,’’ Petrosi said. “Petronaci was able to drop his average from a 68 down to just over a 57. Bryce was able to drop his average from a 64 down to a 57.’’
Coach Petrosi was impressed by the effort and focus demonstrated by the student athletes on the roster this spring and he’s optimistic for the 2022 season.
“The boys handled the stress of a pandemic season as best they could,’’ Petrosi said. “Including the fact that this was my first time coaching, I do appreciate how understanding they were as I would need to tell them a match was canceled because another team had to quarantine, or that we could only put certain players in certain areas to keep up with separation. On top of that, losing part of our normal season because of COVID restrictions made things extra complicated, as the same number of games needed to be played, but in less time.’
“Some of the major thoughts that I have is that I have a team of incredible players where I still have another year with some of them, and even more with others. It is always a concern for a coach when a star player finally graduates, as it seems to be with many other schools.
“But here,” the coach concluded, “these amazing players are still here for at least another season and at the rate they are showing improvement I cannot wait to get them back out onto the course.’’