Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Sports

Tigers Were Primed for Big Things on the Links

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Bella Larizza was looking forward to leading the Hand girls’ golf team as one of its senior captains this year. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Bella Larizza was looking forward to leading the Hand girls’ golf team as one of its senior captains this year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Molly Meyer and the Tigers felt that they had a shot to be a top contender in the SCC in 2020. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Molly Meyer and the Tigers felt that they had a shot to be a top contender in the SCC in 2020. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

The Daniel Hand girls’ golf team had some major expectations heading into the 2020 spring campaign. The Tigers were returning four seniors, all of whom were likely to crack the starting lineup for Head Coach Dave Russo’s squad.

After finishing in fifth place at the SCC Championship in 2019, the Tigers felt optimistic that they could contend for the conference title, in addition to a spot in states this year. Coach Russo said that his team was primed to achieve big things before COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the season.

“I had four seniors that would have likely been in the starting lineup for matches and some juniors that could have competed for a spot, as well,” said Russo, who was entering his second year as Hand’s head coach. “If the virus hadn’t hit, I think we could have made some noise and possibly even placed in states, which is something we have only accomplished once.”

Bella Larizza posted Hand’s second-best score by turning in a 102 at last year’s SCC Championship. Larizza was named one of the Tigers’ captains for this year, along with fellow seniors Molly Meyer, Kennedy Richard, and Taylor Garlock. Coach Russo had high hopes for his four captains on the links this spring.

“I was really looking forward to seeing what our four senior captains could do. I really think they were going to knock it out of the park this past season,” said Russo. “I can tell you that Bella and Molly both worked at Lyman Orchards [Golf Club] last summer, helping run golf clinics for kids. They were both very dedicated to the game and were likely going to be our star players.”

Russo was an assistant coach with Hand for 10 years prior to taking over the head coaching role. More than anything, he enjoys helping people learn how to play the game of golf.

“What I love about coaching girls’ golf is the opportunity to teach them the game,” Russo said. “Many of them come in with limited experience playing golf. Some join the team never having swung a golf club. The opportunity to teach them and watch them improve and knowing that I have had a hand in that is really what keeps me coming back every year.”

On top of coaching, Russo also plays golf and has had success in many local tournaments, including the Founders Cup Championship at the Farms Country Club in Wallingford. Russo has finished first at the Founders Cup Championship the past two years and successfully defended his title last year, despite nearly not qualifying for the final round.

As someone who loves golf, Coach Russo expressed great disappointment that the Tigers weren’t able to compete in 2020.

“I was devastated when the season was canceled, more so for the girls than myself,” said Russo. “I know how much the seniors were looking forward competing, and I really wanted to give them and the rest of the team a great season.”

Coach Russo left his graduating seniors with some words of wisdom as they look forward to more years on the golf course. Russo hopes that they continue to play the game as often as possible.

“All I can really do is preach to them that playing and practicing is super important to the game of golf,” Russo said. “If you take a week or two off, rust starts to form. So, losing an entire season has the potential to be devastating.”


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