WEST SUNBURY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — While most teams arrive to matches in a car, the Moniteau girls golf team rolls up to the course in two vans.
The Warriors have 11 on their deep roster. The rest of the Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference girls golf teams — A-C Valley, Clarion, Clarion-Limestone, Cranberry, Keystone and Karns City — have 15 combined.
(Above, Kendall Sankey, left, and Emma Covert of the Moniteau girls golf team)
“A lot of the teams that we play against say, ‘Oh, we wish we had a big group,’” said Moniteau girls golf coach Sue Scialabba.
There’s a reason why Moniteau has so many girls clamoring to play golf at the school. It’s also the same reason why the Warriors are 10-0 heading into the District 9 championships next week.
“It’s just a really fun environment,” said senior Emma Covert. “The coaches don’t make it overbearing. We normally practice or play Monday through Wednesday and sometimes on Thursday. So we keep a pretty light schedule. But whenever we’re at practice, we’re working hard to get better.”
The team is very close. They are friends on the course and off of it.
They help each other diagnose faults in their swings. They help tinker with grips and cheer each other on.
But it’s what happens away from the links that the members of the team will likely remember the most.
“A lot of times we’ll go to a match and then we’ll go out to dinner,” Scialabba said. “Or we’ll go to Dunkin Donuts or something. It’s just that fun stuff that they said is what they’ll remember.”
They are also pretty competitive.
Only one stroke separates Covert and junior Mariska Shunk this season. They have identical 47.5 averages for nine holes.
Junior Kendall Sankey averages 50.8 and senior Autumn Stewart is carding a 55.4 average this season.
It’s been enough to win every KSAC match this year with Cranberry finishing second each time.
“Cranberry was definitely good this year,” Covert said. “We had some close ones with them, closer than last year.”
Covert started taking golf seriously before her freshman year.
She slowly improved throughout her first season.
“The first year I played it was mostly just for fun,” Covert said. “I don’t think I golfed at all in an actual match for a score. I was just trying to get the hang of it. My second year, I did OK. I was mostly in the 50s, high 40s. And then last year, I started getting more consistent. It probably took me two years to start getting consistent.”
Covert’s biggest challenge was to know when to be conservative and when to take a chance.
“My biggest thing was knowing when to hit what shot,” she said. “There were times when I hit my driver when I really shouldn’t have. Sometimes you have to play it safe, even as much as you want to he the ball really far.
“There were times when I was like, ‘OK, let me try to thread this between two trees,’” Covert added, chuckling. “Um, no. Just take the safe shot.”
Shunk was the same way. She had never picked up a golf club until her freshman year.
“Well, I didn’t want to do cross country anymore and that was the only other sport that I could do,” Shunk said. “My dad said it was a sport I could do for the rest of my life. He likes it. So I was like, ‘Let me try it.’”
Shunk did and, like Covert, improved over time.
She shot a 39 at Hi-Level Golf Course this year for her career best.
Shunk is good off the tee but still sometimes struggles on the green.
“Putting is hard because either you can do it or you can’t,” Shunk said. “Reading the greens and if they are faster or slower is tough for me. It’s kind of a guessing game.”
That’s what her teammates are for. They’ve helped her with that part of her game.
The benefit of a large team is all the extra sets of eyes available to catch a flaw.
“It makes it really nice because you see what other people are doing wrong and they see what you may be struggling with,” Shunk said.
Scialabba has seen that interaction at practices.
She said that’s one of the reasons why the team has been so successful.
“The older girls, I’ve noticed, are helping the younger girls because we have a few sophomores and one freshman and it’s nice to see them helping each other out,” Scialabba said. “It’s hard for us to sometimes get around and help each kid individually. I’ve heard the older girls say, ‘Hey, try this grip,’ and, ‘try this little tweak, it might be better.’”
Scialabba said what the team is doing now will go far beyond high school.
“Our main thing when we started golf at Moniteau was to teach them a lifetime sport, just get them interested in it and have something they can do later in life,” Scialabba said. “Some of these kids are going on to school to be in the business world. I said, ‘You’re gonna have to do this. You’re going to have to make deals on the golf course. It’s not bad to know how to play.’”